Craft Clubs sees 70% growth since Dragon's Den success

16 August, 2016

Craft Clubs, the company behind subscription drinks service Craft Gin Club and Bubble Club, has seen its membership grow by 70% following it’s successful appearance on TV show Dragon’s Den.

In the show, which aired on 24 July, the co-founders Jon Hulme and John Burke received an investment of £75,000 from Dragon’s Den entrepreneur and London Cocktail Club co-founder Sarah Willingham, in return for a 12.5% stake in their start-up. 

Hulme told OLN that the impact of being on the show has seen sign up to its membership service soar. “It has been a crazy three weeks and we have been rushed off our feet,” he said. 

The membership service, which currently has over 7,000 subscribers, the majority of which (80%) are women, offers a monthly gin package for £40 a month.

Members receive a bottle of craft gin that they usually could not source themselves in addition to extra treats, tonics, cocktail ingredients, snacks and chocolates along with a member magazine.

In addition, its recently launched Bubble Club, which sends a monthly delivery containing two specially selected, full-size bottles of bubbles, treats and a copy of its club magazine; costs £32.99 per month.

“Gin all of a sudden has become quite trendy,” said Hulme. “The pub and bar sector were looking for something a little different to serve in the on-trade and to push customers onto higher margin more expensive products. That put gin in front of the consumer and drove an interest. That is a trend we spotted and was the reason we got into the gin space as well as being massive gin fans ourselves.”

He believes that the combined interest in gin came at the same time as the emergence of craft generally. A little boost from HMRC, which made it easier to set up distilleries, saw an explosion in small batch distillers.

“A lot of those guys have got one eye on the whisky space and they are looking further down the line to put their own whisky out,” he explained. “What they started to realise is that it takes 10 years minimum to get the whisky so they started to look at gin and vodka and other quick to market products.”

The consumer demand for gin, as well as people being conscious of what they drink combined with the trend towards drinking at home  - prompted the pair to look at the membership club.  

“You have to differentiate the service you provide to the customer somehow,” he said.  “We are never a cheap way to drink and nor should we be. We can never compete with the supermarkets or Amazon in terms of what we do.”

Hulme said he has been unimpressed with the buying experience in many retail businesses and this led to the company’s decision to set up a curated service.

“If you go into a traditional retail channel you are confronted with, in my opinion, a rather bland buying experience,” he said. “We call it the wall of wine. You see dozens and dozens of wines and very little to differentiate them except maybe country of origin or price.”

The membership club means people are happy to give up their right of choice and want a surprise, he explained.

“I think it is partly that people are time-poor but that is not the whole of the answer as people have been time poor forever,” he explained. “I think it is a case of over abundance of choice. Part of the puzzle is what is happening on the supply side and the explosion of craft producers all of whom are relatively new to the market and don’t have history or pedigree.

Now that the company has the backing of a Dragon, Hulme said the company will focus on continuing to deliver services to its customers.

“We would like to launch into other craft categories. It could be rum, vodka or other spirits or wines.”  

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