This paper presents the strategic marketing changes a small, family-owned Champagne firm has experienced. The strategic and managerial decisions have a strong connection to personal preferences and career choices for the grower-producer in charge. Through recorded interviews over a 4 years period, information regarding historic decisions as well as future plans has been gathered. The case describes three generations of owner/managers; grandfather, father, and the son that presently operate the business. Due to a changing business environment none of the owner/managers decided to “just continue” with their father’s business strategy after taking over.
The grandfather established himself as a Négociant in the village, buying grapes from other growers to use in his own production. After a while he also became a broker in the region for the larger Champagne Houses. Even if he had his own press, he was also initiating the building of a co-op press in the village.
The father experienced changing market conditions mainly due to the fact that the distributors became larger and larger, thereby demanding larger and larger volumes. He tried to comply with their changing requests, but had to give up this market in the end. His option was to turn his focus to private customers and some restaurants. He also decided to sign a contract of selling part of his harvest directly to De Castellane – one of the large Champagne Houses.
The son (present operator) had, in his turn, to adapt to changing market demands. The branch organization demanded new standards for the press creating the need for investing in a new press. Expanding the market also meant finding new customers, this time in Japan. He also decided to expand the product range. Still, bound by contract instigated by his father, he continues to sell part of his harvest to De Castellane.
Analyzing the changes that have been taking place shows that strategic changes should be carefully analyzed since they have implications for a long time, and that the current situation demands a higher degree of marketing expertise than ever before. At the same time it is important to adapt to a changing market environment - not being too rigid in order to “uphold the tradition”. This might be especially problematic in an industry where the branch organization is trying to emphasize their tradition - build their competitive advantage on a strong heritage. The same is also valid within the family that has built their business over a number of generations.
2008. 1-10 p.
4th International Conference of the Academy of Wine Business Research, Siena,