Corks Out goes on the expansion trail

Cheshire-based wine merchant Corks Out is looking to grow the business from its current estate of five stores to a total of 10 over the next few years. 

Founder Ruth Yates told
DRN: “I would happily add two more stores next year and I would like to continue to open more after that. 

“I want to make sure all five current stores are ticking the right boxes first, and I need to see how they perform after some refurbishment work, but next year we will look to add another couple of sites. They will have to be in the right area though, and the right premises.”

She added: “There are lots of affluent areas we want to be in but the premises can be too small and we also want somewhere which can offer outdoor seating. Some of the rents in these areas are costly too, so we have to get it right. 

“We will continue to look in the Cheshire area, or just outside of this but within the north west, and the stores need to be at least 200 sq ft. We would consider adding stores until we get to about 10 – any more and it would dilute our customer base.”

Yates said the company will also be placing most focus on the retail arm. 

“Retail is always at the forefront of the business and it is still a very important part. We will be thinking about how we market our retail business to encourage people to come back in, and we think a lot of this is down to staff training.”

Corks Out is offering its staff in-house training and support with WSET qualifications, which Yates said would help them to feel more confident with retail and drink-in sales. 

She said: “We will also be appointing a retail manager and a hospitality manager. It is hard with staff to find someone who can do everything and we did find that, as we added the on-trade element into the business, there were staff members who didn’t like the extended hours needed for a bar, and others who didn’t feel confident with retail sales.”

Yates started the business in 2003 and expanded it to the current total of five stores. In 2009 she changed the licenses to allow people to drink in stores. She said: “We were one of the first to do this hybrid model and it was a risk at the time. 

“It worked, although it took a long time for people to grasp whether we were a wine merchant or a bar.”

Each store has needed refurbishing to include the functioning bar area. The Chester store has been the latest project. It took four months because it was a Grade I listed building, and it required an investment of £100,000. 

“It’s early days but the store is already 17% up on the same time last year, since we did the refit.”

The final store to be refitted is Alderley Edge, which will have investment of around £70,000.

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