Inspiring Indies: Loki Wine Merchant & Tasting House

This central Birmingham independent has a plush wine bar upstairs and a wine shop with sampling machines downstairs.

Owner Phil Innes used to work for First Quench and spotted a gap in the market for a quality, modern independent in a business district of Britain’s second city.

He opened the shop in June 2012 with the aim of encouraging consumers to stay on the premises, trying new wines and driving off-sales.

Loki Wine Merchant & Tasting House launched with an aggressive social media campaign and has won a number of awards, as well as being shortlisted for Independent Wine Retailer of the Year in the Off Licence News Drinks Retailing Awards 2014, and being named runner-up in Newcomer of the Year in 2013.

Loki hosts regular tasting events and winemaker dinners, as well as holding bespoke tasting sessions for corporate clients, while a blog and Twitter feed keep customers up to date with the shop’s latest news.

Phil Innes, Loki Wine Merchant & Tasting Room

Sum up your shop in one sentence. We are not like traditional stuffy wine merchants – we want to make wine fun and accessible.

What sets you apart from other drinks retailers? The attitude we have towards wine – we want to be inclusive and focus on the sociable side of wine.

Who is your fiercest competitor? The supermarkets are the fiercest. Although we position ourselves at the premium end, it is sometimes hard to pull people away from discounting.

And how do you maintain an edge over them? We provide a more premium wine and spirits offer and value for money without discounting. Also education is a big factor, which is helped by having 24 wines on taste in our Enomatic machines.

How do you keep customers coming back? By making sure the experience in- store is a positive one, and making sure everyone leaves with the right wine for their needs.

What area of the business is performing best? The on-trade is booming, especially in after-work drinks and corporate events.

What’s your biggest challenge as a retailer? The challenge is to keep on innovating and doing things differently to stay ahead of the competition, whether it be new forms of tastings, new technology, or social media.

Can you give us your top retailing tip? Never underestimate the power that social media can have with regards to your business. It’s free and, if you engage in the correct way, it can be a very powerful tool.

What has been your biggest business mistake? Running out of gift boxes the week before Christmas in 2012, my first year. Won’t be making that mistake again.

What’s the best business advice you have ever been given? Never listen to the naysayers and go with your heart. When you set up any business there are always people who will tell you it won’t work, or how you should do it, but I think that you will usually know how to do things best yourself.

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