The Wine Society has announced it is not taking any new orders and it will stop making any deliveries, with immediate effect.

In a statement to its members, chief executive officer, Steve Finlan, said: “The Prime Minister’s statement was very clear that the single most important action we can all take in fighting coronavirus is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.

“I wholeheartedly support the need to do this and as a result we need our employees to stay at home. Many of our employees are already working from home, but this latest development means that our warehouse and transport operations will now be suspended.

“Many of you will be disappointed and some may not agree with our decision, but it is simply impossible for us to argue that it is worth putting our employees at risk in order to deliver a non-essential service. I believe that this is the responsible action to take right now and I hope that most of you will agree.

“I am extremely sorry that this will mean that we are unable to fulfil outstanding orders for the time being. It is uncertain exactly how long this position will prevail.

“Our Member Services lines will be not be taking inbound calls today and will reopen with a smaller home-based team tomorrow. In the meantime, the team will start immediately to contact members about the status of their orders so that we can bring clarity to the situation. My sincere apologies if our automated systems for communication around delivery are not quite in sync with the speed that we have taken this action. 

“We pride ourselves at The Wine Society in always doing the right thing. I believe strongly that we are doing the right thing in this instance.

“We will endeavour to provide timely and effective communication as this rapidly evolving situation continues to develop. In the meantime, I would like to thank all members for your understanding and support, and to extend our very best wishes to you all.”

Speaking to DRN yesterday, Pierre Mansour, the company’s head of wine buying, said the first priority for the company is protecting its staff. He said: “We are putting their health and wellbeing first.”

He confirmed that over the last two weeks the business has seen “unprecented demand” but that staffing levels had dropped by 50%. 

He said: “This means that our biggest challenge currently has been dealing with the increase in orders from our members and then getting their orders and wine out of our warehouses and into delivery. It has been all hands on deck and we have had people from all different types of roles in the company all coming in to help, if they have been able to.”