Norfolk’s Bullards Spirits sets sights on London with direct-to-consumer stores

Bullards experiential gin shop

The founder of Bullards Spirits has lined up more London retail concepts, following the opening of Bullards London Gin Shop & Tasting Room in Westfield White City (pictured).

Russell Evans told Drinks Retailing that he plans to open experiential shops in both Covent Garden and Canary Wharf before Christmas. The news follows the opening of the Westfield White City site earlier this month.

The London venues will join two existing sites – one standalone and one department store concession – both in Norwich.

Evans said the decision to open in London followed a look at the company’s online sales statistics, which showed more people making purchases from the capital.  

“The thought process is that we opened a pop-up shop in a shopping centre in Norwich last December and it worked really well, we were really pleased with it,” he said.

Evans explained that the gin shop and tasting room include a chat with a brand ambassador about the brand and how to use it.

“Some 50% of people who walked into the store were converted to buy the product. We compared that with some of our other retailers where the product just sat on the shelf – people were looking at it and thinking ‘it looks great but it’s £40 a bottle, if I take it home and I don’t like it, that’s a waste of £40’ – so they just picked up what they normally buy.”

He said the whole “experiential thing for us was the tipping point, tied up with the fact that people who own shopping centres were quite receptive to doing deals on rent”.

The Norwich store, now a permanent fixture in the Chantry Place shopping centre, was given a revamp in April, in collaboration with retail experience specialists Play Retail.

“It’s all about footfall. At the moment, shopping centre traffic has been low but it’s getting better all the time. We seem to be in a good place to capitalise – and retail isn’t all about what you can buy online. It’s experiential.”

Kate Orwin, leasing director UK, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, added: “At Westfield, we know our shoppers are keen for new experiences. Our How We Shop: What’s Changed report in fact identified an ‘experience tipping point’, where by 2025, experience offerings would overtake products in terms of floor space at shopping destinations."

Keep an eye out for the full interview with Evans in the September/October issue of Drinks Retailing.

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