Bargain Booze Macclesfield – ‘We’re making more than £500 per week on vaping’

Lia Rutter started as a shop assistant in her local Bargain Booze, now she owns three successful yet different Bargain Booze stores in Macclesfield.

Location: Macclesfield

Hours: 10am-10pm Sun-Thu, 10am-10.30pm Fri-Sat

Staff: 6

Size: 750sq ft

Trading since: May 2017

Fifteen years ago, Lia Rutter was a shop assistant in her local Bargain Booze store. Today, she owns three successful yet different stores under the same group and aspires to expand further.

Describing her development, Lia says: “I’d previously worked at my first store; the second was a failing store; and this one was a hairdressers – it all had to be done from scratch, even the internal walls. Despite the extra work it’s been my favourite launch.”

Backlighting behind the counter and underfloor lighting turn the spirits section into an attention-grabbing central feature of the store and reflects the store’s large focus on gin.

Lia says: “Gin sales have come out of nowhere. We now stock as much gin as we do vodka – it’s through the roof!”

Unlike her other stores that have large store rooms designed for large volumes, the high disposable income of this store’s demographic allows her to really hone in on the trend. “Here, it’s more about quality. People don’t mind dropping £40 on a bottle of gin,” she says.

Another factor that allowed for the spirits sector to really stand out is the decision to use an under-counter tobacco gantry – a decision she says was driven partly by the introduction of EUTPD2 and plain packaging.

Instead, Lia has added an e-liquid cabinet in all three stores and is now turning over more than £500 per week per store in vaping equipment. Lia says: “The staff go through e-cigarette training and when a customer comes in who says they want to quit smoking we’re able to have that conversation with them. It’s good for them and good for us.

“It’s taking customers from a low-margin sale to a high-margin sale of 35-50%.” She adds that unlike tobacco, customers are still willing to pay for premium in e-liquids.

It’s just one way the off-licence market has changed since she began working at Bargain Booze. “When I first started, it was all about Carling and Stella. Now it’s world beers and real ales. That’s why our range has increased so much and we’re sure to include local suppliers as well.”

Lia adds that Bargain Booze has changed too, with the parent company’s mergers with Bibendum PLB Group and Matthew Clark significantly bolstering the buying power and range available to its retailers.

Though she’s planning to take “a year off from new stores” Lia is considering opening a Wine Rack shop in the future and work is soon to be underway converting one of her existing Bargain Booze off-licences into a Bargain Booze Select Convenience store.

“The biggest challenge will be getting customers to recognise that we can fulfil their wider convenience needs,” she says.

To overcome this, Lia plans to use social media to raise awareness. Describing a previous campaign, she says: “We had a road closure outside a store for seven weeks, when it re-opened we held a giveaway on Facebook for a magnum of prosecco as it’s the item which gets the most attention. It was really successful in getting the message out there.”

Top tips

Upsell wine

Lia says if a customer has one bottle of wine in a small basket she asks if they’ve tried a similar bottle, which can often double their spend by getting them to purchase another bottle.

Do the right deals

“We now do payday deals on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the payday weekend,” says Lia. “People have got to know and expect it and it does very well.”

Keep on top of licensing

Lia says: “Keeping your staff up to date on training and keeping good relations with local PCSOs really helped when I applied for a new licence. It made it all very straightforward.”

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