by CORRADO LARONGA
Pietro Ghilardi, founder and CEO of Ghilardi Selezioni, talks about what it means to experience the pandemic from one of the most affected cities - Bergamo - and how the company reacted to the crisis
Pietro, being based in Bergamo you have been in the eye of the storm for months and in reality you have not yet emerged. Can you tell us about the situation seen from the inside?
I admit that the first week was shocking because this situation took us by surprise, a bit like everyone else. But humans are quite adaptable by nature, so we soon gathered courage, started planning strategies to deal with the crisis and got back on track. I think it was like this for everyone, in reality, when we compared ourselves with Chinese colleagues we saw that the process was the same for them too. Luckily our employees and our customers are all well, some have fallen ill but we have not lost anyone, so we look to the future with confidence.
How difficult was it to deal with the closure of the markets?
Our channel is horeca, so as you can imagine, the month of April recorded a huge drop, practically 80% compared to the same period last year. However, we have used this time to do a lot of internal training and have continued to look for new products, some of which have already entered the catalog (non-alcoholic extracts from ApoJuice, new references from Distilleria Quaglia, and the Italian bitters produced by Foletto Trentina) while others will enter in September. I'll give you a preview: we have entered into an agreement with an important Barolo producer which will expand our catalog of Italian wines, a project which we have been working on with particular commitment lately.
Will you be close to your customers in some way during the reopening?
Absolutely yes. As a company we serve more than 1800 customers, each of whom have different needs but currently the same liquidity problems. First of all, therefore, we offered a payment deferral, then we will see on a case-by-case basis how to always intervene in the customer's interest.
Do you believe that the experience of this pandemic will produce any changes on a commercial and human level?
On a commercial level, I believe that this crisis will give a clear boost to e-commerce, as has already been seen in these months of lockdown and as we ourselves have been able to notice thanks to the numbers both of our site and of customers who have invested over the years in this channel. I believe that in the long run we will see a modernization and further development of Italian distribution, especially in the wine channel.
On a human level, however, I don't think much will change, I think. We are several billion people on this planet, each of whom will have experienced this situation and will have developed a path in their own way. For some perhaps everything has changed, for others nothing has changed, so I don't think we can talk about reversals or course corrections at a global level. In general, however, I believe that we will appreciate more things that we previously took for granted, such as the possibility of going out and socializing, because these are some of the aspects that we have missed the most.