Township 7: Navigating Challenges like COVID-19 with Creativity & Generosity

May 5, 2020

In March, when COVID-19’s implications for the hospitality industry began to sink in, Township 7’s Vineyards & Winery, Assistant General Manager Trevor Allen felt overwhelmed—but grateful. Despite everything, the South Langley and Naramata Bench based winery was well-positioned to continue serving customers.

“We had processed our club member shipment, so we were able to first take care of our club members,” says Trevor. “And we have fortunately already been focused on e-commerce.”

Trevor explains that Township 7 focuses on direct to consumer sales, namely through its clubSEVEN program. clubSEVEN sends out three annual shipments of eight bottles selected by their winemaker. As a time when hospitality-related businesses need to become increasingly creative about how to deliver their products, Township 7 already has strong e-commerce capabilities.

That’s not to say that this pandemic has meant business as usual for this twenty-year-old winery. There are losses: lost business in their tasting room. But there are opportunities too.

“Most wineries are now taking an aggressive approach to online marketing and are offering free or discounted shipping,” says Trevor. “But we noticed that in the beginning, no one seemed focused on giving back.”

Township 7 decided to reduce their minimum order to four bottles and donate $10 off each transaction to BC Hospitality Foundation.

“I’m pleased to say that four days after we announced this offer, we had thirty-six orders,” says Trevor. “Our goal is $1,000 and we’d love to sell $2,000.”

Ecommerce and charity wins aside, the winery is also dealing with challenges in the vineyards where they grow their grapes. It’s a time of year when agricultural activity ramps up and closed borders have meant a labour shortfall. Currently, Township 7’s vines are being trimmed and trained by a skeleton crew of three. This same crew will be tasked with production, blending, and bottling the winery’s twenty types of wine.

One way or another, it’s a challenging time. Fortunately, Township 7 has twenty years of creative problem-solving under its belt. Originally, the winery was totally based in South Langley, the seventh of Langley’s thirteen townships. But soon, Township 7’s founders, Corey and Gwen Coleman discovered that while their hometown provided a great namesake, its suitability for growing grapes was lacking.

That spurred Mike Raffan, the winery’s second owner, to purchase the Naramata Bench property in the Okanagan in 2004. There, they began growing the Pinot Gris, Merlot, and Chardonnay grapes that Township 7 is known for.

For years, Mike focused on cultivating relationships with various growers in the Okanagan to meet the winery’s production needs. But in 2018, Township 7 purchased the Blue Terrace Vineyard, gaining the capacity to grow the majority of their grapes on their own estate land.

Of course, the last few years have also brought an increased focus on e-commerce. To make the model work for the winery, there were a few interesting problems to solve.

First, consumer education. “With the success of Amazon, customers are very familiar with e-commerce, but they don’t necessarily link wine with online shopping,” explains Trevor. “So, part of our process involves bringing it to people’s minds.”

Then, there’s shipping. In addition to ensuring fast fulfillment, Township 7 had to design the right packaging. Here’s where Great Little Box Company came in.

“We needed a box that would display our brand, but also be durable enough to hold twelve bottles,” says Trevor. The options that already existed weren’t great. So, we created a unique solution with GLBC’s help.”

That solution was a bespoke box with extra-thick cardboard and robust built-in dividers. It proved both cost-effective and up to the task of safely shipping bottles in a variety of sizes.

“The box also helps us to be more sustainable, because it’s so versatile,” says Trevor. “We’re able to use and re-use it for so many purposes, from the tasting room to the clubSEVEN shipments.”

These days, it’s an unquestioned boon to be able to operate the way Township 7 does. The fact that we could be part of helping this iconic South Langley business to be more resilient makes us truly grateful. After all, we are all in this together. Cheers to Township 7 Vineyard & Winery!

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