Take note 'bolockbuster'

02 May, 2008

Believe it or not, a botched product description doesn't scare customers

A s an independent retailer, one develops a slightly "make do and mend" approach to retailing. If the paint work needs touching up, or more shelves need to be built in the store room, calling in outside experts isn't an option . Usually financial necessity dictates that you have to get on and do it yourself in a quiet moment (although if ever there was a shop that desperately needed the tender touch of a professional lick of paint, it's this one).

The same goes for making point-of-sale information: we have templates for bottle collars that we print on brightly

coloured paper (sadly, card is too much of a luxury). It's a point that I've raised before, but most POS is the wrong size and shape.

In an off-licence, where wall space is at a premium (well, it's all shelves in here) it needs to go on a bottle

collar or a shelf-edge ticket. If, as a producer, you feel that the amount of purple prose you need to describe your heavenly elixir (no doubt "lovingly crafted" from an infusion of hummingbirds' tears and the bum fluff of a whole host of cherubim and seraphim) won't fit on a small piece of card, well, tough. Use fewer words.

Actually, using fewer words isn't always an option. We recently started stocking a Brachetto d'Acqui, a light, sparkling Italian red wine, tasting of rose petals and soft red fruits.

The neck collar on this is so long that it obscures the bottle it's hung on, but I know that Brachetto is a hot tip for the summer, and I need the space to convince everyone else of that. It's unorthodox, eye-catching, and of course it flies in the face of everything I said above, but again, that's the joy of being independent.

Ditto the shelf-edge tickets. They contain a brief tasting note, the size of the bottle

and the price. The tasting notes are all done in-house, either by my colleague Dan or by me. I'm not sure which one of us mis spelled "blockbuster" on a price ticket as "bolockbuster", but it didn't seem to affect sales. Likewise, I'm no longer sure that putting " three-quarters of a litre of unmitigated Belgian lunacy" on a large bottle of very strong beer was a great idea, but it hasn't affected sales either.

The best fun, of course, is reserved for the shelf-edge tickets on the spirits behind the counter and above head height. The price is visible, but the descriptions are almost unreadable from the shop floor, so Courvoisier is "As recommended by Busta Rhymes"; a product that shall remain unnamed used to say "A stomach-churning blend of wine, vodka and fruit juice"; and my latest discovery, no doubt perpetrated by

Dan, where a bottle of liqueur with monastic associations is described as being "distilled by chimps from the blood of sinners. Highly morally ambiguous in flavour".

The wines don't get spared either

and although I'm sure I've written a tasting note for an Italian table wine that reads: "A good glugger for a fiver, nice with

pasta. Or pizza. Whatever,"

I can't seem to find it now. Even the glassware gets it: "Your beer will taste better out of this cool little tumbler, honest" (that is actually true ).

If it all seems a bit pointless, rest assured that it does occasionally raise a laugh. I caught a customer chortling over a tasting note for a Welsh beer that ended: "There's lovely, you". Not a great joke, but a good point of difference.

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English wine: a happy harvest for Christmas

All across England and Wales, vineyards are being harvested. Down winding country lanes come armies of welly-wearing conscripts wielding secateurs and buckets, ready to reap the rewards of our vines. Happily they come, their cheeks ruddy with pride. Half an hour later they’re crawling over muddy clods with lacerated hands, drenched in claggy juice and cold sweat, as if ploughing through an endurance race.

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