Fri | Jun 18, 2021

New sales director for Campari Caribbean business

Published:Sunday | May 9, 2021 | 12:11 AMHuntley Medley - Associate Business Editor
Cecil Smith, senior commercial director for J Wray & Nephew Limited.
Cecil Smith, senior commercial director for J Wray & Nephew Limited.

Spirits company Campari Group has placed a new man in charge of sales for its Jamaican business, who will also oversee 26 other markets in the Caribbean. Cecil Smith Jr took up duties on May 3 as senior commercial director for J Wray...

Spirits company Campari Group has placed a new man in charge of sales for its Jamaican business, who will also oversee 26 other markets in the Caribbean.

Cecil Smith Jr took up duties on May 3 as senior commercial director for J Wray & Nephew Limited, JWN, the Jamaican subsidiary and one of the 20 companies through which Campari conducts its global business.

Campari’s pandemic growth strategy has involved an even greater push towards upselling its various brands as premium items in their respective market segments, a move that started before the onset of COVID-19 and involved the rebranding of the Appleton Estate range of rums, which are named among Campari’s global priority brands.

The bestseller J Wray & Nephew white overproof rum has also been pitched to an expanded demographic and given new brand associations in recent times to widen its market appeal.

Strong Jamaican rum sales contributed to the Americas segment of Campari’s global business contributing 49.6 per cent of group sales for the first three months of 2021, up more than 20 per cent over the corresponding quarter last year. The Italian group’s first quarter results also showed sales improving nearly 34 per cent in the Jamaican business.

Smith, a 24-year veteran with the Jamaican rum-maker, and fresh from a three-year international stint as vice president for sales for Campari Canada, sees his new job leading what he calls the “JWN sales army” as being also responsible for driving revenues and sustainable profitability for the Campari business in the markets he now oversees.

He replaces Michelle Brown-Sinclair, who exited the group and is said to have migrated to the United States after two years in the position.

“I consider myself the chief revenue officer for the business. If we are not selling and selling to the target market then the profitability expectations won’t be met,” Smith told the Financial Gleaner last week from Canada, from where he is directing operations in his new role, as he awaits the relaxation a travel suspension between the North American country and Jamaica.

Smith, who joined the JWN staff at Spanish Town Road in Kingston in 1997 as systems and promotions stores officer directly after high school, now leads a sales and merchandising and team of about 50. Before the Canada posting in 2018, he held the position of commercial director, and he credits his father Cecil Smith Sr, who worked with JWN for more than 30 years before retiring as bulk operations supervisor, with having stirred his interest in working with the liquor company.

Now, Smith Jr is keen to build further on the opportunities for the business’ expansion through increased off-premises or home consumption that has shot up since the pandemic, even as he looks to the gradual reopening of the important hotel and airport sales channels, which have been shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The darkest days are behind us. We are well-poised for continued growth and the opportunities are perfectly situated for me to step back into the Jamaican and regional contexts and continue the reinvigoration of the fortunes of our organisation,” said Smith, who previously worked in merchandising, sales and marketing at JWN.

“As vaccines get rolled out across the region, a lot of upsides will be on the horizon for our brands as consumers have a lot of pent-up need to go out and spend time with each other, and spirits will be a big part of those reconnection moments,” he said.

Smith is looking at a timeframe of the next 24 to 36 months for what he termed a new normal in liquor sales that he thinks will surprise many persons, with sales performance possibility overshooting pre-COVID levels.

The importance of innovation, technology, problem-solving and pivoting to new opportunities, he suggests, are among the pandemic lessons that he takes into the new role. He adds that the continuous investments being made by Campari in its brands and the group’s focus on responding to consumer needs, will place the group in good stead as the business continues to improve.

Smith was cautious in commenting on the precise measures JWN and Campari will adopt in response to the possibility of continued reduced disposable income among consumers in the Caribbean market as a result of general business decline across all sectors, job losses and the chances of some jobs not returning even after the pandemic.

“Everything is on the table. No one is quite sure yet precisely how the economic rebound will go, so it is difficult to say what tactics we will deploy. What I can say is that brands that have been built over time at JWN and Campari, have an uncanny way of surviving even the toughest austerity measures,” Smith noted.

huntley.medley@gleanerjm.com