The government’s Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme has come to the aid of some buyers. “Buyers with robust business plans, who sought individual units and small packages, had a good chance of securing the funding they required,” adds Christie & Co chairman David Rugg.?However, the Bat & Bottle in Oakham, Rutland, managed to open a second store in the town last year – Ben’s Wine Shop – without lending. “We did it on a very different business model to how most would do it,” explains co-owner Emma Robson.
“We have found a tiny, off-the-high-street premises and don’t employ any extra staff to run it. We’re in a market town so we open when the market is on: 10am to 2pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and all day on Fridays.?“We’ve taken on a rent which is about the same amount as we used to spend on advertising, on the basis that it would probably bring in as much new custom, and so far it has. There are three of us who work in the company and we do everything ourselves. It’s stretching ourselves a bit thinner because we’re committed to being in two places at once. It involves some extra hours but we didn’t have to buy any extra stock.”?In time, the business hopes to open a third shop, but “would look at franchising it off rather than running it ourselves,” Robson says. She anticipates it will be 18 months before the second shop realises its potential. “In the long term we wouldn’t be happy with the return we’re getting now,” she says.?Thomas Peatling, a wine shop in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, has operated a second store in Spalding, some 70 miles away, for a number of years. “It’s been organic growth,” says director Nicholas Corke. “I can’t tell you whether we’ve doubled or trebled the
profits, but from where we’ve started it’s moved in the right direction.
“It opened up a new area which was
certainly quite useful. Here in our main premises in Bury we get a lot of private customers as a specialist wine merchant, whereas the Spalding shop is slightly more trade-oriented. There we tend to do a little bit more with pubs and restaurants. It’s a small town and not really such a retail environment.”?The business owns the freehold at Spalding, and Corke says he would be keen to go that route again if more growth opportunities presented themselves. Some of the First Quench sites he has investigated have been ruled out because of unrealistic terms from landlords.?“The thing you’ve got to be cautious about – and I say this having been involved in a chain of shops – is controlling the overheads and getting the right lease,” he says.
“A lot of those First Quench sites are on fairly onerous leases, or rents, at least. The site is important but the costs are fairly crucial. The ones I’ve had a look at were too expensive. If you get clobbered with those terms it is very hard to make it work.”