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So as I mentioned in my last post we had quite a few issues in getting our business launched, but, on the 18/9/15 we were able to throw our doors open…which was nice! Now we discover the teething problems, again not of our own doing.
The first, well the first isn’t a teething problem as such, just a bizarre term in our licensing agreement, that we couldn’t contest, which states for all international rugby matches at RFU HQ we have to close 2 hours before kick off. The current licencing officer
for the Metropolitan Police seems to have it in his mind that rugby fans and football/soccer fans are one and the same. So throughout the entire Rugby World Cup we made no money, mind you not many people did seeing Heineken and the authorities had usurped the tournament and were herding supporters to the Fan Zone at Old Deer Park, and insisted on telling travelling fans that Twickenham was closed, a point that was to change after many complaints. The damage had been done! A town that has hosted international rugby for 80-90 odd years was being sidelined for the corporate pound. Shameful!
Our second issue was with our chip & pin, and it was a doozy! For any business to succeed communication is always key. In fact, you plant it right at the top! The good folks at our bank and our chip & pin companies seemed to have constructed a corporate wall where neither could talk through, up or over. Each had initially denied responsibility in whom had lost our merchant number, a key requisite in the ability to process all cards.
We went for three weeks without the ability to take credit or debit cards. In modern day trade you need to be able to takes cards, no if’s buts or maybes! We initially didn’t want to be open if we couldn’t take cards as we didn’t want to be seen as a cash only business but we had enough interest from locals, curious with what we were doing to suggest we should open..after all we had a full shop of funky beverages that we wanted to introduce to the local populous and the Rugby World Cup was about to kick off. We eventually chipped away at the communication barrier between the two parties and got our chip & pin machines functioning. Holy crap! That was an unnecessary headache.
Four months in , where do we stand?
Sixteen years ago, god I feel old, I worked in a wine store just the next street down, here in Twickenham, for five years. I was the Assistant manager for Bottoms Up where trade was solid. Foot traffic was evident and there was a vibrancy to the place. Fast forward to now and we can see the shift in how people shop. In that sixteen year gap internet shopping has come on in leaps and bounds. Now when I walk in to work you don’t see those numbers perusing the retail outlets here in Twickenham. I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s become a ghost town. Twickenham has always been a hub for bars & restaurants. Coffee shops have appeared in their droves, along with nail bars and charity shops, but there is nothing that really encourages people to want to spend their hard earned pennies here.
In the four months we’ve been here we have been constantly trying to figure out ways to lure people in. The main challenge we’ve faced is getting our name out there into the public ether. As I commented on in my last piece we took over a site that has no history as a drinks outlet, plus we are also a bit hidden out of the way.
We still have guys popping in asking about the jewellers that used to be here, and yet they closed nearly two years ago. The task here is to alter the residents perception of this site. We have done the usual leaflet drops to the surrounding area, but for me that never usually yields much, not unless you offer some hideous low margin discount. We placed an introductory coupon in the local newspaper, but they ruined the ad with a poor low quality image that was virtually unintelligible (we’re still seeking compensation or a free redraft). As a staunch Harlequins rugby supporter I have a deal going with the clubs supporters association, Quinssa, offering a specific discount to members, which seems to have been lost on their website. It all sounds rather negative but these are just the pitfalls of opening a new business; meaning creative thinking and never letting these these set backs get in the way of establishing your business. These things take time to get going!
Before Christmas the Church St Traders Association held three events where the street was closed off. One was for the turning on of the street and towns Xmas lights, the other two was for a Italian and French themed Xmas market to be held over successive weekends. For the two markets we ran in-store tastings with two of our suppliers, Boutinot & Cave de Pyerene based on wines from those two countries. My colleague, James, mother worked her feet off in dragging people in off the street. We were busy and it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately the events have yet to show a regular, loyal customer base. Again, pigeon steps
Over the brief time we have been open we have garnered a lot of positive feedback. Paying customers and inquisitive passers by have lauded our establishment with high praise over our range. Our
Enomatic machine has proved very popular, highlighting wines that they might not of tried before like our wines from Stobi, Macedonia or Croatia’s Ilocki Premium range. Our selection of small local microbrewery beers outsells those of the more recognised brands.
All of this gives us the ability to react accordingly, reviewing our range, think outside of the box and the experience we are gaining as a new business is invaluable.
So what is next? We shall have to see!
56 Church St, Twickenham, Middlesex, TW1 3NR
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