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20 April, 2007

QI am preparing our shop's first

wine list and magazine. I'd really like to add some illustrations and photographs,

but I don't have a budget for anything spectacular. How can I achieve a professional look without paying professional prices?

AIn-store magazines can do a lot for your business. They can extend the personality of you and your staff on to the printed page, act as a superb marketing tool, and create a sense of community among

customers. But they


make your

business look shambolic and amateur if you don't do at least a semi-professional job.

As a starting point your best bet would be to get hold of other wine merchants' magazines. They're a very varied bunch, ranging from text-heavy black-and-white lists with lengthy tasting descriptions and serious information about south-facing slopes and soil types (which could be right for your clientele) to witty, colourful magazines stuffed with strange pictures, competitions, jokes and self-deprecating stories. This approach can be great if it's genuinely in tune with

the business and its customers, but can grate if it feels too forced.

If you're doing this on a budget the best advice is not to bite off more than you can chew with

the first attempt. Perhaps stick to A4 sheets you can staple together, or phone a couple of local printers to see how much it would cost for a colour glossy print job with four or eight pages. You'll normally have to work with multiples of four, so think hard about exactly how much information you need to include. Is it really necessary to include the entire wine list, or just some of the highlights?

As far as illustrations are concerned, taking pictures of bottles or shop displays is notoriously hard to do even with a decent digital camera. The shots have a habit of coming out dull and lifeless, and the label details will be hard to read. Your best bet is to talk to your suppliers and scrounge some of their artwork - you'll probably find there are dozens of JPEG images that can be e-mailed down the line to brighten up your magazine.

Cartoons might also be worth considering. You can buy themed ones online (try www.cartoonstock.com, which has some off-licence humour on its database) or maybe there's a member of staff or a customer with artistic skills. Half a case of something as a reward for their scribbles might be a good investment.

Finally, however good you think your draft magazine looks, get a critical assessment from at least a handful of trusted advisers and be prepared to make changes before

taking the plunge. Customers won't expect your standard to be quite as high as that of The Sunday Times (or even OLN - Ed), but typos are irritating for even casual readers. Don't skimp on the proof reading.

Q I want to conduct a spirits tasting in my shop. How should I present the samples - neat, as my colleagues insist, or diluted?

A There are wild disagreements about this subject. Some people do prefer spirits being presented in their raw, untamed state, but this means tasters get that familiar alcohol "burn" which makes it harder

to distinguish between samples. It also means you might have to expend a lot more spirit!

The best idea is to cut each sample with a little mineral water - a little less than half the volume of spirit per glass. This will release the aromas, which is really all that spirits tasting is about: true experts simply nose the glass, finding it unnecessary to take a slurp. That might be a bit po-faced for a customer tasting, but essentially tasting a spirit should merely confirm what your nose has already told you.

Given that more and more people are enjoying spirits these days as cocktails, why not conclude your tasting with a few spectaculars prepared by a local bartender? Put the constituent drinks on special offer and give your presenter a bottle of something nice for his time and you could still make a healthy profit.

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Is blended Scotch overshadowed by single malt in retailers?

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