A WINE seller in Worcester has successfully adapted his business to survive during the coronavirus lockdown.

Richard Everton runs Bottles Wine Bar and Worcester Wine Ltd which supplies the trade and larger private clients.

He said: “We have had to adapt and react to losing almost all of our regular income overnight after being forced to closed. All our wholesale trade customers had to close also so they were not in need of any wine and the wine bar and shop at Bottles in New Street also had to shut overnight.

“These two channels represented at least 90 per cent of our sales, if not more. It left us with the building in New Street shut but rent still being paid and our warehouse at Top Barn.

“With the help of the government’s Job Retention Scheme and business grant to the hospitality sector and the freezing of business rates, it would have been an option to full the blanket over my head and sweat it out, hoping to be in a better position to open again after lockdown.

“This, however, was never an option in my mind as I had shed blood, sweat and tears over the last six years, along with my loyal staff and partner Sue, to build up this business from scratch and letting it unfold without a fight was never on the table.

“I decided to furlough my staff in order to make sure that they still had an income coming in, which was hugely important to me, and explore the opportunities of developing the home delivery business and online opportunities. Having developed an existing mailing list of loyal customers that frequented our regular wine tastings in Bottles over the last five years, and through my own network of contacts, I felt that we were as well placed as anybody in this area to supply wines to the private customers and ‘bring Bottles to their homes’.

“We were aided by the failure of the supermarkets and national wine suppliers to cope with the increased demand for home deliveries of wine, beer and spirits. We used our good presence on the various social media platforms as well as our mailing list to get the offers out there to the public and the uptake was fantastic, and fortunately there seemed a genuine desire for the public to want to support local independent businesses.

“My staff have all been great and have voluntarily helped from time to time with certain things and Sue and Hannah (our manageress) have both helped me with the deliveries at busy times. We have staged online tastings on YouTube as well as sponsoring virtual network events and also streamed live DJ music nights to all the customers that were missing their regular nights out with us in Bottles.

The deliveries have continued to grow and I have had to purchase a second van to accommodate them. We offer a same day local delivery service for orders placed by noon that day and a next day delivery service for orders placed after noon. We have expanded our offering to include a selection of craft beers and ciders and also spirits and we are even now offering lockdown hampers including wine and cheese.

“The satisfaction I have got from building this new aspect of our business has now encouraged me to actively invest further and as well as the new van, I have also been working very hard setting up a brand new upgraded online wine shop for Bottles Wine Bar & Merchants and also one for Worcester Wine.

“Rather than reducing my stock holding and hoping for everything to blow over, I have actually done the total opposite and have completely reviewed my whole buying process and started shipping wines from all over the world direct from the winemaker into our bonded warehouse. When we re-open we will have a really good new feel to our wine list and our trade customers with be able to benefit from some superb and exclusive wines that we didn’t have before. These wines are now arriving from all corners of the world and are now starting to appear on our website (www.bottleswineshop.co.uk).

“I could not have taken this approach if it had not been for the support that the government have offered to protect cashflow and I have taken out a bounce back loan secured by the government to invest into these positive changes and additions.

“I am hoping that all this hard work and investment will make us a much more versatile and sustainable business in the long run and also will protect the jobs of my loyal and passionate staff and carry on satisfying the desires of our very loyal customer base, whether it be wines and spirits delivered to home, tastings and events or offering a great fun night out.

“As far as re-opening is concerned, we will be very much guided by the government directives and access the social distancing requirements and expectations and then see if we can operate in a financially viable and safe manner. Clearly the safety of our staff and customers is paramount and we will not rush to do anything that we feel will jeopardise them.

“We will send out a questionnaire to our customers asking what things they would want in place in order to feel comfortable frequenting Bottles and assess the situation accordingly. We think that certain wine tasting events initially can be conducted in a socially distant manner and maybe bookings only for table service, but will be guided by the science (to coin a government phrase).

“We will certainly look to continue and develop our home delivery and private customer business and we are already building a new website to work along side this.”

Richard added: "Having been in the wine trade for a lifetime and around the hospitality industry for almost as long, I have learnt to expect the unexpected and also learnt that you have to deal with what is thrown at you. There is no point moaning or crying about something that has happened, you have to meet it head on and deal with it in the best way possible.

"I have had my fair share of life’s ups and downs over the years and I always think of something my late father used to drum into me: 'Son, there is always a way to turn a defeat into a victory, you just have to find it', and his more blunt comment of 'Son, don’t let the buggers grind you down!'.

"It may all sound a bit philosophical but I genuinely believe that you are the master of your own destiny and that there is always something positive that you can take from the darkest or most desperate moments."

Richard has kindly offered to provide 12 bottles of wine to be split between two community heroes nominated for our We Salute You feature in the special edition of the Worcester News, Worcestershire: Life in Lockdown, we are publishing next Saturday, May 30.

Anyone can be a lockdown hero: people who have delivered food and shopping to isolating neighbours; keyworkers risking their own health to help others; teachers who have cared for the children of keyworkers – we want to salute everyone in Worcestershire who has helped their community during this difficult time.

To nominate someone, visit https://bit.ly/3bW4Cjy