Martin Flanagan: Whisky sector's fortunes on the rise

Scotch whisky export volumes grew 3.1% in the first half of the year. Picture: David Cheskin/PAScotch whisky export volumes grew 3.1% in the first half of the year. Picture: David Cheskin/PA
Scotch whisky export volumes grew 3.1% in the first half of the year. Picture: David Cheskin/PA

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on items purchased through this article, but that does not affect our editorial judgement.

All bad things come to an end. The Scotch whisky industry, while never less than resilient, has not enjoyed the most advantageous trading conditions in the past few years.

The slowdown in emerging markets trumped the desire of those countries’ aspirational middle-classes to have the cachet of a bottle of fine spirits on their tables, and premiumisation met pushback. But the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) today reveals that global volumes grew again in the first half of this year for the first time since 2013.

Read More
Scotch exports rise as boost from weak pound looms

It does not mean all the economic and political volatility has disappeared. Far from it, with Brexit among other things. But it is worth noting when the figures turn more positive again and for the Scotch sector they have.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Today’s findings reveal that global Scotch export volumes rose 3.1 per cent in the six months to the end of June. And while there was a slight 1 per cent fall in the customs value of whisky shipments, this is much smaller than the 3 per cent decline experienced in the first half of 2015.

Not least of the good news is that the sector’s biggest market by value, America, looks in decent fettle. Exports there rose 9 per cent to £357 million, with single malts up 22 per cent and blends up 6 per cent.

In short, things seemed to have stabilised for the industry after the headwinds of the past few years. A volume increase is often, although not always, a harbinger of a rise in the value of overseas shipments.

And if the SWA, in tandem with the UK government as opposed to the EU going forward for obvious reasons, can ever crack the customs duty barrier that is India, we would surely be talking about robust growth again rather than a turning of the corner.

Potts puts on the pressure

The third successive quarter of like-for-like sales growth at supermarket group Morrisons is impressive after the drawn-out decline that went before under former boss Dalton Philips.

His successor David Potts has patently grasped the turnaround levers, while Dave Lewis, who succeeded Phil Clarke at Tesco, has done much the same for Britain’s biggest supermarket business. No pressure, then, on Sean Clarke, the new broom at currently flailing Asda.