Wines from around the world with an emphasis on the real and natural, organic and biodynamic. Wines made from beautiful, healthy grapes with minimal manipulation in the winery: no secret ingredients, no funny business.
Iron and Rose
This year has brought some big changes for us all, how did that impact on your business?
Well, it’s not over yet. The effects are being felt all over, for example all sales of alcohol were banned in South Africa during the pandemic which led to a huge drop in domestic sales over there and no exports. So the suppliers in South Africa had no outlets and had the producers breathing down their necks as the vintage grapes still needed picking and processing!
It hit many of our food suppliers too, such as Appleby’s and Shropshire Salumi, as a large portion of their trade was linked to the restaurant/pub trade. Neals Yard, though, quickly turned things round in the way they adapted their business.
We found that people really wanted some kind of connection. We had to close our shop in Shrewsbury Market and, first of all, I tried to sell everything we could in order to turn stock into cash. We had a website but it was just basic and only listed mixed cases for sale. Then, people started phoning, asking what we had available. That’s where the idea of a Lucky Dip case came from and it worked really well. It was good to know we had that have level of trust with our customers and it’s a great way for them to try something new and perhaps explore wines they hadn’t previously tried.
As I said, when we first started our website was basic. Then we closed the shop and the bar and furloughed all the staff, bar one one of the team who had only joined immediately before the lockdown so wasn’t eligible for furlough. She got started by putting all of our stock up on to the website, making it fully functioning. This was a massive transformation. It was something I had always wanted to do but somehow it had always slipped down the list of priorities. It has made a really significant change in the business.
We reopened our Market shop along with other shops at the end of the first lockdown, as we were classified as an off-licence, initially just Fridays and Saturdays then gradually more regular hours. This was followed by opening the bar for a bit when we could. It was very good in the middle of summer last year, but towards December it was more difficult as numbers were limited and we could only service drinks with food.
As result of Covid, another shop site became available in the Market, which, as we had wanted more space, was perfect for us. So, during January and February this year we worked on developing that space. We’ve kept Glouglou and opened Petit Glou alongside a new space for the shop. It’s meant we’ve been able to have more kitchen space in the market enabling us to produce more of the food we sell. We’re starting to make our own bread, together with things like quiches. We will carry on working with our local suppliers and plan to hold different events too.
The lockdown brought a lot of change. For staff it was hard for them to be furloughed and now having to come back they have to readjust to that, but we have a team here. I’d say, that everything has been accelerated by five years for the business.
The other challenge has been the level at which hospitality businesses have been expected to do some of the policing. We feel a responsibility for making the place feel safe for our customers, but it’s not easy.
What would you say were the positive things to come out of this?
For our business it has been good in parts. Our reach and turnover increased, but we lost a bit in terms of supplying other restaurants.
Our business model has changed. We will continue pushing the retail consumer side of the business. The Glouglou Bar helps offer people a taste of unusual wines that they might not normally turn to.
We will carry on dealing with businesses that we’re aligned to, but not chasing other trade business. I think we will focus on what we do already and do it well. On the 17 May indoor hospitality opens up again and we are gearing up to start from there. I think this summer will be good for the UK economy generally. There’s clear evidence that many people have a pot of cash saved that they’re not spending on travelling, yet they still want a good experience.
Something else we have started doing is working with an e-cargo bike delivery company, recently set up in Shrewsbury. It’s fast and efficient and great to have that integrated retail offer. I believe recreational retail is the future of retail.
We’ve also had Brexit in between times, has that been significant?
It’s hard to disentangle Covid and Brexit. Wine from the south of France has been taking two months getting through Customs and Excise. That’s hard for cashflows and has affected quite a lot of stock lines which are taking so much longer to arrive. We work with small importers, so they are the ones who deal with the Customs & Excise. It does make it hard to plan.
We have a special delivery from South Africa of Testalonga once a year. It’s quite weird just getting those allocations that arrived in March last year and those same wines are arriving now a month later.
What does it mean for you being a Slow Food Business Supporter?
Slow Food is very much part of what we are about. The longer I’ve been doing it, the more convinced I am at how it’s the right way to do it. When we started, we were perhaps a bit ahead of the market, but now the market is beginning to catch up. There’s a lot more awareness and focus on the local and what that means in terms of who you’re buying from.
We’re getting better, more interesting wines through that are good for the planet. It’s interesting to see that the more mainstream retail is going much more down the organic route. I’ve noticed that a few producers have opted out of the main eco certification as they don’t feel it’s rigorous enough. They are starting to club together on this. Some of them go to incredible lengths, doing things like looking at what is growing naturally in their area and in their soil and replicating that.
Considering the Route to Market is really important, having a clear idea of what’s it about and what people want. That is where the specialists can come in and build that connection in a meaningful way.
Over the year there have been some changes in Shrewsbury. It’s lovely to see that a new grocer’s shop and a butchers have opened in the Frankwell area with an appetite for sourcing locally. Plus, the Beefy Boys are opening a new place in town and they’ve closed off the High Street to traffic so it all creates a friendlier more unique shopping experience and environment. It feels positive moving into the future.
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