Season's bleatings

11 January, 2008

The festivities are finally over, but was there something missing?

OK, look, I know it's very unjournalistic, but I have to admit that I'm filing this copy late. I'm not proud, but the truth is that the last two weeks of December were, to use a slightly inappropriate word, carnage.

That's not to say it was bad business, but it was hard work. The oft-repeated cliché of "a week's takings in a day" came true.

Consequently, I'm hammering this missive out in a terrible post-Christmas-party haze.

I'm sure you're aware of the tradition of staff outings being held once the smoke has cleared. So please bear with me.

Speaking briefly to a few people in the trade, it seems that Christmas defied a lot of expectations, and was actually both busy and profitable. Those of us who have found a niche to occupy seem to be able to mine a seam of interest from customers grateful for a traditional, almost old-fashioned, business that knows what it wants to do

and isn't afraid to do it.

I was out doing a spot of January sales shopping this week

and stumbled into a shop that seemed to sell

everything : toilet seats, garden furniture, instant coffee, cosmetics, T-shirts, the list goes on and on.

It wasn't one of those fabulous corner shops that are slowly dying out, rather it was a huge, warehouse-like affair on a retail park. I forget what we were looking for, but the overall effect of having everything on offer was completely disorienting.

Now, we are used to people getting a bit freaked out by the scope of our range of bottled beers, but essentially, we just do one thing. We sell good-quality bottled beers, and happen to have a decent range of wines and spirits alongside that. There are some areas that we should perhaps try to exploit.

I've made friends with a local French baker, who also makes his own chocolates. Beer and good quality chocolate can be a great match, and so it would be a small conceptual stretch to encompass his goodies in our offering.

I would also love to sell T-shirts from the breweries that we stock, but experience has told us that this doesn't always work, although perhaps the slogan

Trapped Wind?

on an Old Fart T-shirt was the problem. Certainly everyone admires the brewery T-shirts I wear. Or are they admiring me? But I digress.

One area that we certainly failed on was making up our own gift packs. Although we do have little cardboard carriers, it seems that the lure of a wicker hamper covered in

Cellophane is too great to resist. Note to self and readers:

buy some hampers, straw and

Cellophane for next year.

In fact, don't even wait until

next year, but do it now. And put some nice chocolates in it. And a T-shirt. And while I think of it, what is it with those gift boxes we stock that are slightly too small to put English beer bottles in? That was clearly the work of a disgruntled design graduate, getting his own back for being given such a menial design task.

So now all we have to resolve is the supply line issue. It seems that Christmas was such an unexpected success that everyone has run out of everything : cava, tobacco, ordinary commodity wines and beers. We can't sell it if we haven't got it, so let's go out, get it

and get on with the job in hand.

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Is blended Scotch overshadowed by single malt in retailers?

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