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Interview, Part 2: Wilson Daniels President Rocco Lombardo

December 23, 2020

In the second part of our interview, Wilson Daniels president Rocco Lombardo weighs in on current conditions across the company’s national import business and its wholesale markets, including the robust off-premise environment and hopes for an on-premise recovery in the spring and summer of next year.

SND: It’s obviously been a challenging year across the drinks business. How is Wilson Daniels finding conditions as we close out 2020 and move into the new year?

Lombardo: It’s far from an ideal situation, with the tariffs and especially with the dollar weakening over the past two months. So there’s added pressure, but due to our financial prowess, we’re able to compress margins and mitigate the tariff effect. The dynamism off-premise has also helped alleviate that pressure. There’s rapid growth happening at retail. We’re up close to 50% in the off-premise between national and regional chain and independent retailers.

SND: What are you seeing in terms of regional variation among your key markets?

Lombardo: In Oregon, our Galaxy wholesale business is actually up 2%. They’ve done a very admirable job of continuing to grow that business, where in addition to Covid there has been social unrest this year. We’re seeing momentum in our upstate New York wholesale business, our New Jersey wholesale business, and Connecticut wholesale business. Long Island is doing very well, but we’ve lost about $12 to $13 million on-premise in Manhattan. Fortunately, we were able to make that up through retail channels for the most part. We’re not exactly whole, but it helps marginalize the negative impact from restaurants. My heart bleeds for the hospitality community, because many of these local businesses are family owned and operated. We don’t have the big chains for the most part in the New York area. Family businesses have been really put at risk, and it’s sad to see. They’re talking about having about 80% of the population covered with the vaccine by May, so we’re hoping that by the second tertile of the year we’ll really start to begin the recovery.

SND: How does revenue break down currently between the national and wholesale segments of the business?

Lombardo: With our portfolio additions—most recently Torres and Commanderie de Peyrassol—and with our transition to an off-premise focus with an enhanced national accounts division, we’ve been able to successfully navigate a very difficult year. As a national business, we will exceed $80 million in turnover. And between our national and wholesale companies, we’ll maintain our $150 million in turnover from last year. So we’ll be revenue neutral, and we’re really, really proud of the effort by not only our own teams, but also our wholesale network and our trade customers.

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