Sometimes I wish a warehouse could be like Dr. Who’s Tardis with the addition of an expansion capacity such as you find on suitcases. Having excess capacity, sitting empty just in case of increased requirements is not a commercially viable option for any warehouse owner.
Last year we needed some extra capacity to stockpile prior to the Brexit fiasco. This year we needed extra space because of the overnight COVID-19 lockdown imposed by the Govt. We had many consignments on the water which needed to be stored over the impending weeks yet very few deliveries were leaving the warehouse because so many roasters were not able to receive the coffee. As we approach the last quarter of 2020 I can see that we will need extra capacity again for Brexit but also the potential problems with demand volatility due to further COVID-19 outbreaks.
We are lucky to have great warehouse partners. The majority of our coffee has been held by CWT Tilbury and Liverpool for many years but we also store with AGC in Grays and Woodmansey and Vollers in Bury St Edmonds. This is apart from our warehouses in Dublin, Vilnius, Antwerp and Le Havre supporting our European and Scandinavian business.
Over the years I have considered buying a DRW warehouse, but the factors in paragraph 1 coupled with the complexity of receiving, storing and delivering raw coffee in a professional manner, meant that I decided to restrict our services to what we do best and leave warehousing to the professionals. We have considered other warehouse companies as well as the ones listed above, but again felt we should only store with warehouses familiar with raw coffee. Everyone can do it on paper, but when the problems come with condensation damage, infestation, multiple SKUs per container etc, best keep with the expertise.
To this extent, we have agreed with Vollers to take our excess stock. However, our business has continued to grow (slight COVID-19 hiccup this year) and the diversity of our range means that it is likely that Vollers will store more and more of our coffee. It is our challenge to make sure that we have the right coffee in the right place at the right time, which is an increased challenge for the current period, but we felt it better to have excess stock than not have coffee when required.
When I first joined DRW in 1986, George Booth was the main trader supporting my father. He was a Londoner who served with the Coldstream Guards during the war and had many lovely turns of phrase. One of them was “a roaster without coffee is like a soldier with a gun but no bullets!” Again, pre-2000, each trader stored in multiple warehouses so it was common for releases of multiple contracts to come from two if not three different locations.
With the COVID-19 situation likely to be with us for some time yet and Brexit on the horizon, supply and demand is likely to continue fluctuating. To ensure that we continue to be as flexible as possible, having a good stock holding to offer spot and prevent hold-ups in port, we have decided that it is far better to use both CWT and Vollers for the foreseeable future.
Together we are stronger!
Simon and Team DRW