Bright Ideas

Every month we celebrate the ingenuity of independent merchants in our Bright Ideas column, sponsored by WBC.

Tell us about a bright idea that’s worked for your business and you too could win a WBC gift box containing a some premium drinks and a box of chocolates. Email claire@winemerchantmag.com

wine vials: tastings to take away

Sam Shaw

Wolf Wine, Bath

In a nutshell …

Make sampling and tasting easy for customers by decanting a selection of your more esoteric wines into 250ml vessels, which Wolf Wine calls its vials.

The 250ml vials are a less expensive way to experience premium wine

How does this work logistically?

“Every week we select a wine at a price point of £23 or over. We put it in our vials and customers can either come to collect them from the shop, or we do free delivery in Bath and Bristol.  

“The price per vial changes, depending on the wine, but it hovers between £9 and £14. It’s basically poured into the bottles so we are advising people to consume within a day or two. 

“We might look at those counter pressurised taps where they inject argon into the bottles prior to us pouring. We are in our 16th week of doing this now and we haven’t had any issues so far.”

Another good idea sprung from the Covid economy …

“Yes, especially during lockdown there were a lot of people who wanted to try new things but sometimes that’s a lot to spend. When you can’t speak to customers face to face, it’s hard to get that rapport. An online transaction is much harder and it’s a less intimate sales relationship. 

“Our wine vials are a way of showcasing some of our more expensive wines and to make them more accessible. Each vial is a large glass of small-production, high-quality, special wine, so it’s nice for people to treat themselves and try something new in the comfort of their own home.”

Is it a guided tasting?

“We’re not doing a live/virtual tasting with them at the moment – I’d love to be able to but we just don’t have the time or manpower. Maybe when things settle down a little bit we can make it more interactive. There’s lots of potential to do more with it and roll it out beyond our neighbourhood.”

The wine vials are very Insta friendly.

“Every year our wolf logo gets redesigned by a new artist – it’s how our branding works. I’m a big advocate for supporting artists. We’re on our fourth wolf – and one of the artists helped us out with the artwork for the labels. People really dig what we’re doing.”

October 2020

MAKE SPOTIFY PLAYLISTS PART OF YOUR IDENTITY

Jack Sellen
Parish Wines, Walthamstow

In a nutshell …
Invite your customers to compile a Spotify playlist of their favourite tunes to share in-store.

Tell us more.
“Because Parish Wines is set in such a residential area, we thought this would be a really great way for us to reach members of the community. So I started by seeking out people I know who live in the area and asked them to do a one-hour playlist and send it to me with a link on Spotify, along with a picture and what they love about living here. We get to learn about our community – what ticks their boxes – plus we gather a load of great music, almost crowd-sourcing it, to put into our playlists in the shop.”

Has anyone surprised you with their musical tastes – maybe thrown in a bit of death metal halfway through?

“We haven’t had anything off-message yet, but it is up to them really. I give them a brief to put something together that they’d like to listen to while enjoying a glass of wine. For some people it’s pretty chilled, and for others it veers more towards the party vibe.

“Often the musical journey starts at one end and gets more lively at the other. The music in our growing playlists is definitely very broad: there’s old music, more contemporary sounds and music from all over the world.”

Are there complications with licensing or other considerations?
“We just pay PRS as everyone does, so it doesn’t affect music licensing. My background has taught me that music is a really important part of the experience as a whole and we’ve installed Sonos speakers to allow us to play the music with a nice, clear definition.

“Getting the volume right is very important: it sets the tone for how the tables behave. If it’s too quiet, people think they have to whisper, but at the same time it shouldn’t be so loud that you have to project your voice to be heard.”

What’s the reaction from your customers?
“It’s proved to be popular. Walthamstow is full of creative professionals and people are starting to ask us if they could provide a playlist, which is fantastic. We create a visual using the image they provide to share on our social media and if they go on to share their playlists on their social media and mention us, then that’s quite powerful.”

September 2020

Armchair travel video tutorials

Jackie Sugden
Grassington Wines, North Yorkshire

In a nutshell …
Exploring the heavenly match of travel and wine through short wine tutorial films, based on travel books selected by the local bookshop.

Tell us more.
“I was chatting with Linda from The Stripey Badger, who told me about her Armchair Travel Book Club. She selects a range of travel books to promote to customers and we thought it would be a good idea to drink your way round the world too. The first continent she chose was Africa, so I made a video presenting a range of wines from the Waterkloof Estate. To talk about a country’s climate and culture is a good way in to talk about their wines and how they are made.”

Sounds ideal. We don’t fancy getting on a plane right now.
“Exactly! It was an idea that came from our lovely local community being on lockdown and it’s nice to at least read about other countries, even if you can’t actually go there right now.

“The local pub has also got involved and will be making different food to complement the selected books, and the local travel agent is also making short films about the countries and regions featured in the books.”

Jackie Sugden on the Wine Merchant trip to Kavaklidere in Turkey in 2016

You look quite comfortable in front of the camera. Was it hard to do?
“Oh, I can talk about wine for ages. It only has to be between five and 10 minutes, so you just need to give people a flavour.

“Linda’s son James did the filming and it was his first time, so he had to learn about editing and all those things. There’s a slight hum in the background so I think next time I need to turn the fridges off!”

Have you had to get stock in especially?
“You could go crazy and really go for it, but I’m using what I have. The next continent we are covering is Asia and it’s not just about wine. I’m going to talk about beers from China, for example. I always have a sake in stock so I’ll include that. The wines that I will show for Asia will be from Lebanon because I have them in stock and also Turkish wines. I went to Turkey with The Wine Merchant, so I’ll talk about how amazing that was.”

Has this got life after lockdown?
“I know that Linda has half a dozen books that go with each different continent so we could go back and revisit. If it takes off I can see it being part of the Grassington Festival, which we hold every year in a marquee in the square. Once people can congregate again, I can see us talking about books and travel and food and wine, so it might play a part in that.”

August 2020

get on your (cargo) bike

Jana Postulkova
Forest Wines, Walthamstow

In a nutshell …
Reduce your carbon footprint by making deliveries by cargo bike, but you might want to make sure you get one with an electric motor.

How long have you been employing pedal power for deliveries?
“We started bike deliveries in the borough in 2014 shortly after the business opened and long before it became trendy, so we have been on the road for the last six years using a range of trailers and bikes.

“We are keen to keep things aligned with the green ethos of our business, and when our online orders and local demand increased during lockdown, a large capacity bike, with a help of an electric engine, fitted the bill perfectly.”

What sort of capacity does the electric battery have?
“We generally do deliveries in east London so in terms of battery life I don’t think I could take it down to Brighton. But we comfortably do 60 to 70 drops on the busiest day on a single charge, so it’s quite a powerful machine. We currently operate a free next-day delivery service in E17 and E10 postcodes, seven days a week, and we travel farther out on weekly deliveries in east London.”

Has it been easier having to cope with less traffic during lockdown?
“The local authority encourages cycling. We were one of the first test areas for making cities greener and communities healthier, so the local residential streets are closed off for traffic. For us it’s much easier to navigate by bike than to use a vehicle.”

It’s all very well in the sunshine, but will you power through the wet and cold?
“Absolutely! We have a rain cover, so the cardboard boxes and the goods don’t get wet. You wear a raincoat and you can get dry at the end of the day. There are days when you don’t want to be cycling to Hampstead Heath, but the local deliveries will be always be done on the bike.”

We’re in awe of you. What’s the reaction been from your customers?
“People are very happy when you turn up with wine anyway, but when we deliver a bit farther afield people are quite shocked we get to them on a bike. It’s a good promotional vehicle for us because we definitely stand out from the crowd. Our local customers have named the bike the Forest Flyer.”

July 2020

Start an Art Club

Duncan Sime and Ola Dabrowska
Kwas, Huddersfield

In a nutshell …
This art club originally started as an on-premise activity and has become a way to stay engaged with customers during lockdown.

Tell us more.
“It was mainly Ola’s idea as she has studied art,” says Duncan. “She got together some spare art supplies that we had around the house and encouraged people to come and join her in the shop every Wednesday and enjoy a glass of wine while painting and creating.”

How have you made this work during lockdown?
“There are a few social media groups knocking about based on recreating famous artworks at home. So we adapted that idea and asked customers to recreate their favourite album covers. Our contribution was an interpretation of a Beastie Boys album cover. That’s me, Ola and our eight-year-old in the back garden – we’re quite proud of that one! It’s been a great thing to do on social media, especially Instagram. But it’s quite a commitment to do it every week, so we’ve just decided to do it once a month and make it a bit more interactive by involving prizes.”

Joint winning entry: Forget the Blueprint by Lisa Ockelford

Ooh, prizes. What’s up for grabs?
“We’re working with Dabbawalla, a local business that makes amazing curry and Thalis. First prize will be a meal for two made and delivered by Dabbawalla, plus a bottle of wine from Kwas. Second prize will be a £20 voucher to spend in our web shop. It’s about helping each other out at the moment and if we can have a bit of fun with the art side of things, and we can help another business in the process and customers can get to win something, that’s ideal. I’d rather pay for a bit of investment into a prize than pay for a Facebook promotion.”

What are you asking customers to do to be in with a chance of winning?
“We’re asking them to design their ideal wine label, using any medium they like. There will be extra points for inventive wine names too – we’re looking for good puns. They have seven days to get creating and send their entries in via our social media channels. Hopefully people will rise to the challenge and engage with us.”

Joint winning entry: Chat-Eau Claire by Claire Cole

Here’s the one we published in April 2020.

Bright Ideas April 2020

Here’s the one from March 2020.

Bright Ideas March 2020

February 2020:

Bright Ideas Feb 2020

January 2020:

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