Richard Noy enters our Help the indies competition with a rallying cry, perhaps aimed at all the centenarians of Winscombe?
Winscombe is an ordinary North Somerset village; still with everything you need ... except a Gent's Outfitters! There are the usual 'Op Shops' as Australians call them (Charity Shops to us) and although two banks pulled out recently, our Post Office has been refurbished and it looks as if the remaining bank is here to stay – for the time being. We can buy wine in two general stores, the usual stuff, but our village and the environs has a bias towards senior citizens, though young at heart. There's a vicious rumour that I love to quote – 'People come to Winscombe to retire and die – then they forget to die!' We seem to celebrate at least one 100th birthday each year and I've personally held the Queen's greetings to two centenarians in this village in the last two years.
Is this why Kelli Coxhead came to town? Do we 'Old Codgers' drink THAT much? A couple of years ago a well-known local entrepreneur decided to sell up two businesses in adjacent buildings in our main street. Who would buy them? Who could see a future in our village? Imagine our surprise when the news spread that one of the shops was going to sell.... WINE! Whoopee! We waited with bated breath for the grand opening – shock, horror, it was being opened by an attractive young lady – what would she know about wine? Was this going to be another 'bright spark of an idea' which would be snuffed out before the flame could be fanned? Would the pricing pressures of nearby supermarkets squeeze margins too much? Those who thought it would be a one-day wonder had another think coming.
On 18 October 2012 The Wine Shop of Winscombe opened its doors and we soon learned that this was a carefully planned move. Kelli was no newcomer to the wine retailing industry – inspired by a trip through New Zealand's wine country in 2006, she had been hooked on the way the Kiwi's presented their wine and the professionalism with which wineries marketed their products. Moreover, by the time the shop was opened she had returned to Blighty and immersed herself in the trade (not the product!). She worked for a London-based international wine company and gained her advanced qualification with the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust – leaving nothing to chance. Then she moved closer to us taking a position with a Bristol Independent retailer. From there she started offering wine tasting events and mastered that art too. Now she could put the last piece into the jigsaw by creating a base in which to bring together all those attributes.
The Wine Shop has a simple, crisp and clean line. Its large, uncluttered window invites us to take a look inside while simultaneously telling us about 'The wine of the month'. A board at the side highlights events taking place inside and elsewhere, trips to vineyards, promotional events and so on. Upon entering the shop there is a space for us to be welcomed and from which we can gauge how best to browse the selections on offer. From a central island Kelli can monitor her customers and offer help in an instant. We want to look around.
Kelli is, to say the least, an unusual woman. She found her premises, wrote her business plan, set about attracting the right customers and recognised that early on marketing was the key. From the earliest welcome we, the villagers, were presented with a communicator who wanted us as customers to enjoy events planned to always offer something new and different to appeal to the broad mix. This month (August) we're being whipped into a frenzy about September Sunshine State – a month of activities to promote the Wine Shop business and Californian Wine to the benefit of all. Success for Kelli will mean us buying enough of her Californian wine products to put her into the lead in a national competition among independent retailers. To lure us she's negotiated some great prizes linked to the outdoor life in The States. Opportunities for us include tastings, dinners, extreme sports competitions and even a surfing lesson or two as prizes; dynamic marketing indeed! Wander into our butcher's shop and you'll be greeted by a recipe of the month AND the wine to go with it, from just round the corner at The Wine Shop.
So, what does my independent wine retailer do for me? On my doorstep I have an experienced, market-focused expert who tempts the customer to try new things; wines from unusual places, tastings weekly of wine varieties and other drinks too, organic and low-sulphur wines for the connoisseur (not always the best!). The shop itself doesn't baffle us with too many wines; they're all organised by country of origin and there's always a helpful suggestion from Kelli. Browsing is a pleasure and Kelli has truly become 'one of us' very quickly, taking a leading role in a recent village festival and allowing the shop to be the hub of activities with the sale of tickets for most of the events as well as a 'What's on' board to encourage us to walk in. This retailer's got the lot: deliveries to your door, tasting sessions to suit every pocket and occasion (and appealing especially to the young and young at heart!), a well-run website providing everything to enable business and customer to match their needs. We wish her great success and we know what we've got to do – if we don't want to lose The Wine Shop, then we've got to use it!