Whilst I could, and still do, appreciate and endorse the reasons why lockdown came in to place on 23 March, when lockdown was announced in the UK it did feel like we were all living through some strange Orwellian reality TV! I remember walking through the decimated shopping aisles in the Barnwood Sainsbury’s and saying to my mum that a new world order was beginning. Looking back on things a few months’ later, this prophecy does look to have, in many ways, been fulfilled.
How has lockdown affected our trade?
A large part of British Polo Gin’s business model is running hospitality events across the country and to have all 150 dates from this summer’s schedule wiped out virtually overnight was galling. The other side our business is focused on supplying the on trade with our award-winning 100% organic gin. With lockdown and the forced closure of pubs, clubs, restaurants and public gatherings announced on 23 March, a significant proportion of our projected revenue dried up literally overnight. It was as if a tap had been turned off.
Similarly, I am one of the owners and licensee at British Polo Gin’s stablemate, The Polo Pub at Foston’s Ash. On 17 March, the UK government advised people to “avoid” hospitality outlets and to not undergo non-essential travel.
We were therefore left in a moral maze of not wanting to shut as we wanted to support our clientele and staff, whilst at the same time not wishing to put anyone at potential risk. Our locals wanted us to stay open – in fact, right up to Boris’ speech announcing lockdown on 23 March, we had locals drinking at the bar, but it was in a way a relief when we were told to close on 23 March having limped along since 17 March when the government effectively advised against going to pubs.
How have things changed for British Polo Gin?
So, the events and on trade side to our business were shut off overnight on 23 March. Hopefully, this metaphorical tap will turn back on again as quickly as it turned off if everything goes to plan now that we’ve got the green light from Westminster.
I am however always keen to look for a silver lining and I am delighted to confirm that in the past few months I have noticed a really positive change whereby both the public and business seem to positively look for ways to engage themselves locally and support independent SMEs.
To this end, we have enjoyed a big upturn in sales to farm shops, delis, and wine merchants across the country. Similarly, our online sales are up circa 400% which I think is in-line with other businesses who have an online presence. We are hugely grateful for this.
We have also continued to work on pipeline projects as I am confident that normality (albeit with a few tweaks) will return soon. As such, I am delighted to confirm that we will shortly be producing a bespoke limited edition run of our 100% organic botanical gin in partnership with The Royal Agricultural University to celebrate their 175th anniversary year.
Our contribution towards the fight against the virus
We have been producing hand sanitiser for the local NHS, care network and private sector for months now. The sanitiser is produced to The World Health Organisation Formulation 1 which is at a minimum abv of 80%. It is great to be supplying at this strength because it is 10% higher than the minimum recommended abv of 70%.
At the distillery, we are able to physically produce the key raw material, ethanol, so we have been able to maintain and to a large extent, guarantee supply to key partners for the duration of the crisis.
Launching a new product would usually take months so it was amazing to witness how quickly everyone in our supply chain galvanised to make the project happen. There seemed to be a tangible feeling that no request was too marginal or trivial and that we were all pulling together in the same direction to help the collective national effort.
The main thing to take away from this crisis is that if everyone, public and business alike, work together in symbiosis then even the most daunting of obstacles can be tackled.
British Polo Gin’s outlook for the future
As mentioned above, the landscape will be different in a “post covid” world. But with furlough provision looking after staff, government-backed competitive finance being made available to business and a collective drive to work together reinstalled across the country, we are in a strong place to bounce back.
To borrow the words of Captain Tom Moore, no matter what happens today, “Tomorrow will be a good day”.
Thank you to Rich Hine, founder at British Polo Gin, for contributing this article to Start and Grow Enterprise. British Polo Gin produces proudly British, quadruple distilled, handcrafted, small-batch gin using only the best organic ingredients to create some of the most flavoursome yet smoothest of gins on the market.