‘People will remember the brands that made an effort’ - Gin boss on future of his business
The boss of Norwich gin maker Bullards reckons the high street will struggle to recover from the effects of lockdown.
But people will remember local firms which kept on going, says Russell Evans, who runs Bullards distillery in Cattle Market Street.
Ever the entrepreneur, Mr Evans has refused to be beaten by the business shut down and when sales of his gin started to fall, he diversified into producing hand sanitiser instead. Since he began in March, he’s distributed 11,000 litres of it.
Now, he’s no longer helping supply front line NHS services with existing suppliers back up and running but is selling to firms such as motor dealers and golf courses, businesses that need it to reopen. And he’s currently working on its packaging; creating an attractive sanitiser in a glass bottle for use in the home which can then be refilled using pouches, just like his gin.
Thanks to a government coronavirus grant, he is, however, able to focus again on making gin – and has just launched a media campaign pushing the sale of it online.
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Mr Evans admits the shutdown really affected his business – as his gin is distributed mainly through pubs such as the Ten Bells, St Benedicts’ Street and department stores like Jarrold and Debenhams, which have all been closed. Like other firms, he’s had to look long and hard at his website and ability to sell online.
“The high street was in a pretty bad state before coronavirus but now it has taught us all we don’t always need to walk into a shop. We don’t sell in supermarkets and so we’ve needed to really promote our website and the fact you can buy gin online and then refill using our pouches delivered flat through your letterbox.”
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“I think people will remember the brands which made an effort in lockdown.”
Mr Evans introduced the idea of gin by letterbox delivery in January. Bullards gin comes in large glass bottles shaped like the historic chimneys of the old Norwich Bullards brewery and the idea is, instead of getting rid of them after drinking the gin, you order a refill. It saves on recycling the glass and also cuts down on the amount of packaging needed to send out the bottles.
Mr Evans supported a recent proposal to pedestrianise St Benedicts street, which would enable social distancing for businesses such as the Ten Bells pub and Farmyard restaurant. “I’m all for it because the pub doesn’t lend itself to social distancing easily, it’s very compact inside and people need to be able to get to the toilets. We’d have to have twice as much room with half the number of customers.”
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