Oddbins beer shop kicks off trials

Oddbins is moving beyond its wine heritage with the opening of a craft beer shop as it trials new formats to accelerate expansion.

The Oddbins-branded store in Blackheath, south London, opened this week without a single wine or spirit on its shelves as the retailer embarks on a strategy to grow its reputation in craft beer.

Managing director Ayo Akintola told OLN the shop – Oddbins’ second in Blackheath – would be one of a number of concepts rolling out under the Oddbins name this year.

He said: “In the course of the year there will be lots of new things in the pipeline. We had a fantastic Christmas and the business is evolving. It’s not that it’s harder to make more money from wines, but I am not going to take that for granted. The beer shop is one of a number of things we are looking to do this year.

“The money we make from selling wine is what’s paying for this experimentation and for years to come wine will be the main source of income. But we want to bulletproof the business and it’s important to start doing things differently.”

Oddbins, which was last month named best chain at OLN’s inaugural Celebrate British Beer Awards, has significantly increased its emphasis on the category and Akintola said a beer-only shop was the next logical step.

He added: “Seventy-five per cent of the range is British craft beer, with the remainder coming from across the world. People might ask why we are doing it in Blackheath because they assume if you are opening a beer shop it should be in Shorditch. But we looked at the sales and it’s not just the hipsters in east London drinking beer – there’s a big socioeconomic group.

“It’s not your typical beer heads coming in, it’s women as well as men.

“The margins [in beer] are good because the producers aren’t doing stupid things with the pricing and the people selling it are also sensible. Everyone in the supply chain is doing things sustainably and it works because it’s a collaborative relationship. The brewers have to make a living and we can give them brand exposure across the whole estate. Because of the quantities they produce, we can take all their production. They are artisan producers and we respect that.”

Akintola said he wanted to bring the Oddbins expertise and staff knowledge into the “dynamic” craft beer category and said more shops could follow.

He said: “We think the beer shop will be sustainable and we will watch what happens. If it goes well, I can see no reason why we wouldn’t scale it up and expand the beer division.”

The company will also continue to roll out new wine shops with Dorking, Surrey, opening today and more planned this year.

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