“We often get asked how we choose distributors, why we opt for one business over another. Shared values, of course, are key, as are an understanding and an appreciation of one another’s business. Every bit as important, we always say, is the ability to sit down at the end of a long day of trade visits and tastings and crack a beer together. It’s probably best not to dwell on quite how many beers have been cracked over the past 19 years with Team NNZ (not to mention fine wines, tequilas and whatever nefarious offerings Clive has laid in front of us in the early hours of the morning); suffice to say there have been a fair few.
Lois remembers meeting Clive in the mid-1990s at a time when Rippon was being courted by a number of distributors, keen to take on a premium Central Otago brand. It was, she says, clear from the start that Negociants NZ was the right match for us and the team, headed by Clive, was fantastic in helping build Rippon’s presence in the New Zealand trade and ensuring that we were positioned in the right places. As Lois puts it, “meeting all those wonderful people in the industry in the 1990s through Negociants was a coup that I couldn’t have achieved without our association”, a sentiment that undoubtedly rings true in today’s trade too, almost 20 years later.
Back now to the social side, the out-of-hours shenanigans that cement any friendship. Pictures tell a thousand words and we have a few here from the infamous (well, at Rippon anyway) 2003 tours in New Zealand and Australia. Many of the stories are best not repeated, but the in-house favourite here has to be that from Wellington. After a typically heavy night with the Negociants team and their other agencies, Nick managed to lock himself out of his and Lois’ hotel room. In his less-than-sober state, he thought he was opening the door to the bathroom so had the added inconvenience of being naked. Stark naked. Lois was out for the count, dead to the world, and didn’t hear his shouts and banging. Realising his efforts were futile, he finally found a linen cupboard in the hall and slept there, wrapped in towels to stay warm. When Lois woke and found his bed empty, she assumed he had found another bed for the night (best not to dwell on that) but when he didn’t arrive for breakfast, she began to worry. A search party was sent out to no avail and he eventually emerged for breakfast, wrapped in just a towel. Soon enough he was clothed, fed and ready to resume business for the day with none of the trade and consumers any the wiser….