London-based wine retailer Bottle Apostle is set to significantly ramp up its online business; meanwhile the company has confirmed it is not seeking out any new sites.  

The founder of the five-strong chain, Andrew Eakin, told OLN he now viewed the website as its sixth store.

“We are developing our website and it will go live by the end of September; it will be the sixth shop for us in effect. It will be a completely different site with a new look. We are spending a lot of money on developing it; in total, and including a connection to our epos system, we are investing £55,000 on this. We would be doing well if we could make this money back over a three-year period, if we are being realistic.  

“The reason we are enhancing the online offer is so that it will be much easier for people to order wine from a tablet or mobile phone. People will be able to take 12 bottles a week from us in a form of a wine club, and we will also be able to offer wedding lists.  

“Personally I like to buy wine that I can see and touch, but everyone orders things online now and so we had to make sure our online offer is easy to use. We have a full-time dedicated manager for our online sales.  

The first Bottle Apostle store opened in 2009. The company added two sites last year and its portfolio of London stores now totals five, but Eakin said the business is in no hurry to expand further.  

“We have a decent amount of good buying power now that we have five sites. We have been able to reduce prices on our wines because of better buying power due to having five sites,” he explained.   

“We try to keep our offer interesting and our stores are totally different, so for example the wines that sell through our Clapham stores are more expensive than our other stores, not because the area is particularly more expensive but it’s just that that’s what people are looking for. We try to get good quality wine and we try to push that at a good price. We aim for about 50 changeovers of wine a month; people get bored very quickly.

“We could get funding to open more sites and we never say never but we want to keep it personal. We have three sites under three years old and these need time to bed in. People are only just starting to get to know our shop in Clapham for example.”

He also noted that beer has been another area of focus for the business.  

“We used to have a tiny shelf of beer and we sold twenty or thirty bottles a day but now we have one brewery from which we take two pallets – that’s 2,400 bottles – of that one beer alone. Now 25% of our business is beer so it’s a massive add on for the company, although we are predominantly a wine store and space for beer is difficult.”