Artisan gin maker records 800% increase in online sales in Covid-19 era

An artisan gin maker has recorded an 800 per cent increase in online sales as Brits' love for a G&T in the sunshine continues in the Covid-19 era.

The UK gin market in the UK has grown over the past decade, but like the whole of the drinks industry, it faced a crisis in March as pubs, bars and restaurants were forced to close their doors.

But Bramley and Gage's 6 O'clock Gin has seen monthly online sales soar from just under £10,000 per month to £80,000-a-month, while orders on other platforms such as Ocado, Amazon and Master of Malt have doubled.

Bramley and Gage, based in Thornbury, near Bristol, South Glos., launched 6 O'clock Gin in 2010 on the back of a £25,000 loan from Funding Circle.

They are targeting turnover of £10 million per year by 2021 across the business – a 9,900 per cent increase on 2007.

They also plan to crack America, having recently opened a base in Tampa, Florida, and signing a deal with RNDC, the USA's second biggest distributor, to help growth.

Michael Kain, co-founder, said: "Covid has been a challenge but our sales have increased.

"We've been able to compensate for the loss in pubs, bars and restaurants, the cancelling of tours, our own shop closure and the cancelling of outdoor events by selling direct from our website and through other online stores.

"We've had an 800 per cent increase in purchases from our website and sales on sites such as Amazon and Ocado have doubled.

"We're a small, flexible and innovative business and pubs and hotels are now reopening.

"In the mid-Covid era, people still want high-quality G&T and that takes staff time to pour.

"Safety is important and by putting a high-quality G&T in a ready to drink can, staff are saving time and serving in a safer manner."

To diversify during the crisis, they also launched a ready to drink range, releasing a classic London Dry Gin and Tonic (7.0 per cent ABV), and a 'Light and Low' (<0.5 per cent ABV) version plus two new flavours in July – Exotic Orange and Damson & Ginger – as well as a Light alternative to their classic London Dry gin and tonic.

This range of gin combinations is designed to provide a more practical solution to serving high quality G&T's in pubs and restaurants.

Bramley and Gage have been a remarkable success story since 2007, when Michael and his sister, Felicity Hall, took over their parents' liqueur business following their retirement.

They launched 6 O'clock Gin in 2010 against the backdrop of a financial crisis where banks were hesitant to lend.

At the time, they were one of just 23 spirit distilleries in England when small batch, artisan gins were a rarity.

However, they saw an opportunity for growth and, not wanting to give away equity in the business, approached Funding Circle for a £25,000 loan to pay for a new bespoke still.

After securing the capital, they transformed themselves into an award-winning gin maker, with its flagship 6 O'clock Gin London Dry stocked in the likes of Waitrose, Harvey Nichols and more than 6,000 pubs, restaurants, and hotels across the UK.

Ten years on and there are now 441 gin distilleries across the UK – with the market worth a staggering £3 billion.

Michael said: "The market has exploded. I could never have expected how much it would grow by.

"We're 100 times bigger than we were in 2007 and Funding Circle played a massive part in it.

"In 2010, we needed to invest in stock to help us scale and grow and at the time the banks weren't being helpful. We didn't want to give away any equity, so a syndicated loan made sense to us.

"We borrowed £25,000 through Funding Circle and we were able to put in a second still (gin-making apparatus) which we have today.

"We got a good rate and paid it back within three years – we've since used them again."

The siblings named their brand 6 O'clock gin because that was the time they would always have a G&T.

The family and their employees still maintain their tradition of indulging in the first G&T of the evening at 6 o'clock – a very British custom, still enjoyed at the distillery and shared by gin-lovers all over the world.

And Bramley and Gage, through their 6 O'clock brand, has played an important role in the success of the industry, going from a team of two to 25 and using more than 120,000kg of sloe berries each year.

They have also picked up 150 awards around the world and their distillery in Thornbury is visited by around 5,000 gin fans annually.

To keep their customers entertained during lockdown, they launched live 6pm shows online, which featured cocktail masterclasses and tips on serving the perfect G&T.

As 6 O'clock Gin turns 10 years old in September, they are preparing to give away 3,652 free G&Ts to fans across the UK – one for every 6pm since they launched their business a decade ago.

Bramley and Gage is one of more than 57,000 UK businesses which have been supported by Funding Circle as the small business loans platform celebrates its 10th birthday this week.

Lisa Jacobs, managing director at Funding Circle, said: "As one of our first customers, it's been fantastic to watch Bramley and Gage go from strength to strength over the years.

"We're proud to have played a part in the launch of 6 O'clock Gin and join their 10th anniversary celebrations, alongside our own.

"A decade ago, Funding Circle set out on a mission to help small businesses access finance whatever the weather. This has never been more important today."

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