Reflections on 2016

As I raised a glass of alcohol-free sparkling Pearl Blanc wine last night I reflected on the year that had just ended and thought about the year ahead.

We’ve had all the celebrity deaths and the election of Donald Trump, but Brexit has been the single biggest event affecting The Alcohol-Free Shop.

We don’t know how things will pan out long term, but in the short-term the Pound has slumped against the Euro – dropping from around 1.40 to under 1.20 (and at some points under 1.10).

Nearly all our drinks come from the EU so it makes a big difference to us. Despite increases in costs to us, we’ve held off raising prices – but rises are inevitable.

Despite this, it’s been a great year for us at The Alcohol-Free Shop. We marked our 10th anniversary in 2016 and saw a very healthy growth in sales and customers as we have every year since we started in 2006.

We’ve also been happy to help those less fortunate by donating zero-alcohol drinks to charities and worthy causes including an event to welcome Syrian refugees in December.

We faced a few problems. All couriers are overstretched at Christmas which means more mistakes and more breakages. There was a shortage of haulage vehicles to transport goods from the continent. A combination of higher-than-expected December sales, and external failures beyond our control (one wagon left Germany with someone else’s pallets…), led to stock shortages in the last few weeks.

On the positive side, we’ve seen many improvements and laid the foundation for new developments in 2017.

We launched a new version of our web site. Our site is now easy to use on mobiles and tablets making ordering more convenient for existing and new customers. We’ll continue making improvements in 2017.

Now easy-to-use on mobiles!
Now easy-to-use on mobiles!

Switching to the new site in December is one of the ‘bravest’ decisions we’ve made. But, apart from the odd teething problem which were quickly fixed, it went smoothly, helped our growth this month and made our customers happier.

The website changes are just the start of a much bigger set of improvements to better serve our customers.

We have some very exciting plans that we’ll share with you as soon as we can.

As always, I’d like to thank every single person who has supported us this year. Every time someone places an order we appreciate the trust you show in us.

The demand for zero-alcohol drinks is growing in the UK and we’re proud of the part we’ve played to help this since 2006.

More people are moving in to the market and the choice of who to buy from is growing. Despite that increased competition, we’ve continued to grow and our regular customers – some from our first week in 2006 – come back to us time and time again.

We know from your feedback that this is because you appreciate that we try to go the extra mile for our customers (see what Christine did on Christmas Eve!)

You also know we genuinely care about the people we supply to and the products we sell. We started The Alcohol-Free Shop for good reasons, and it wasn’t to jump on a bandwagon!

I hope 2016 has been a good year for you and yours, and I wish you all the very best for 2017.

See you in the New Year!

Just the ticket – a Christmas journey

We always try to go the extra mile for our customers. This time it was 300. Almost.

In the run-up to Christmas, everyone’s rushing to plan the perfect festive season.

At The Alcohol-Free Shop, we’re part of many of those plans. Our customers look to us to help create great memories and we do our very best to keep our promises.

But sometimes things go wrong. Couriers lose parcels, tasks are overlooked in the whirl of activity, sometimes bottles are broken – and that means sometimes our promises are too.

We rely on producers to make the drinks we sell, transport companies to deliver them to us from around the world, and courier companies to deliver them to you. Even when we do our best, a problem with any part of this chain can cause other problems for us and, more importantly, our customers.

One customer was seriously ill and undergoing chemotherapy. He was looking forward to joining in the fun by raising a glass of alcohol-free wine with his family and making it a Christmas to remember.

He ordered six bottles of wine but we were told by the courier that the goods were damaged in transit and couldn’t be salvaged.

It was too late to get a replacement out to the customer by courier. He simply wasn’t going to get his wine for Christmas Day.

Unless we delivered it ourselves.

Every person who works at The Alcohol-Free Shop puts the customer first and makes an extraordinary effort to get things right.

We understood how much this Christmas meant to him.

Our co-founder, Chris Humphreys, put her own plans on hold to play Santa and save his day. She may not have Santa’s beard, but she showed she certainly has the heart.

She booked train tickets for a nine-hour round trip to hand-deliver the wines on Christmas Eve.

Just the ticket
Just the ticket

She left home before dawn to travel to Manchester to collect the wine at The Alcohol-Free Shop for the onward journey south.

With the tickets, and box of wine, in hand Chris was within 30 minutes of boarding the train for the next leg of the 300-mile journey when the customer reported his wine had arrived. One bottle was broken, but all was not lost.

The day was saved; the train ticket costs and time were not.

But Christine could now go home to spend the day with her family.

And the customer will enjoy his family Christmas as planned – and that’s what matters most to us.

Merry Christmas from everyone at The Alcohol-Free Shop!

We're old enough to drink – why can't we be grown up enough to accept health advice?

Look, I get it. I really do. Lots of people find alcohol-free beer and wine laughable, some find the very concept offensive.

What I don’t get is why. And, as importantly, why they feel the need to be so vocal about it.

In the 10 years I’ve been running The Alcohol-Free Shop I’ve heard and read it all.

‘What’s the point? Just drink water!’

‘Alcohol-free? I’d rather have free alcohol!’

‘It’s like kissing your sister, it tastes the same but it’s wrong’ (and that’s the polite version of that particular one).

Every time an article is published about alcohol-free drinks, as one was last week in a major UK newspaper, the comments section is filled with similar nonsense.

And Dry January is like the proverbial red rag to a bull. A worrying number of people seem threatened by other people making a choice to take a break from alcohol.

The comments that annoy me the most are along the lines of this one I saw the other day – “waste of time. Just drink the proper thing ffs. The good times down the pub will far outweigh the bad ones on your death bed” – which was probably written by someone who has never seen how slow, painful and distressing such a death can be.

Every time I see comments like these I despair. Not just at the fact these people think they’re being original and funny (trust me, you’re not), but because their comments are often based on ignorance.

Established facts such as the link between alcohol and cancer, or a refusal to accept not everyone wants to drink water or orange juice all the time, are ignored.

I’m not saying this attitude is unique to the UK but I spend a lot of time in Spain and there the attitude is incredibly different. Nearly every bar sells alcohol-free beer and it’s just seen as a good-tasting alternative. Germany, home to probably the best beers in the world, has an amazing range of alcohol-free beers and they’re accepted as a viable and tasty option.

For some reason the UK is trailing far behind.

People often accuse us, and others who work in the alcohol-free industry, of being judgemental. Ironically the people who claim this are often the ones passing their ill-informed judgement on those who drink alcohol-free drinks.

I’m not judgemental towards people who drink alcohol. Most of my friends and family – and even co-workers at The Alcohol-Free Shop – enjoy a drink. I will, and do, happily sit in a bar with friends who are drinking alcohol. Why wouldn’t I?

I used to drink. I enjoyed it for many years. But I came to the realisation I could no longer do it. It was affecting my life negatively and I had to stop. I’ll have been sober for 12 years in June and stopping drinking was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made – for me.

But I don’t try to force that on anyone else and if people want to drink, that’s absolutely their choice and I’ve never told anyone not to drink.

So why do drinkers feel the need, or think they have the right, to tell those who enjoy alcohol-free they are wrong?

Our customers drink alcohol-free for many reasons. Some – although the minority – because they’re recovering alcoholics. Some because they have other non-alcohol related health issues and have to avoid alcohol. Others because they are pregnant, want to lose weight, need to drive, or just want to cut back on the amount of alcohol they drink and dont want to be limited to fizzy pop and sugary fruit juice.

But it’s right to say they enjoy drinking alcohol-free, otherwise why would then continue to order? We started in 2006 and have grown every year – maintaining and growing a loyal customer base.

The recent guidelines published by the UK’s Chief Medical Officer confirm that there is no safe-level of alcohol consumption.

Some people – including intelligent commentators – have tried to portray these guidelines as ‘limits’ and accused the government of ‘nannying’.

But isn’t it right that people have the knowledge of the damage alcohol can do so they can make an informed decision?

We now know that processed meat carries an increased risk of cancer but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it now and again. I’ve probably cut back a bit since the discovery of the link – and according to reports so have many others, with sales of sausages and bacon falling – but I’m not going to totally stop. I know the risk and choose to manage it. That’s all the alcohol guidelines are for.

Alcohol Concern, the charity behind the successful Dry January campaign, have launched the inaugural Zero Alcohol Awards. We’ve been nominated for some of the categories and customers have been great in supporting us by sharing some amazing stories.

One email in particular stood out. A woman, with two small children, wrote to thank us for the service we provide. Her husband, aged just 39, suffers from hemiplegic migraines – a rare and serious form of migraines.

She told me how ‘utterly terrifying’ his attacks were, and how he had been hospitalised. It took five months of tests to rule out strokes, diabetes and a brain tumour. His condition is severe and he’s been told he should avoid alcohol for the rest of his life because it’s a trigger and he could end up hospitalised again if he has further attacks.

She understands that some people might think not being able to drink isn’t such a big issue, but she explained how her husband has an active social life and enjoys a drink at home. He felt bleak about his future when he was told he should avoid alcohol.

When they discovered there were great adult alternatives available they became regular customers of ours. She wrote to say our shop had ‘dramatically changed my family’s life’ and her ‘husband has not had to sacrifice any aspect of his life but as a family I can rest assured that he is not going to collapse again through even a small amount of alcohol’.

She ended her email saying ‘I am close to tears as I write this as, if you could see the difference that this has made to our family, you would be too.’

These sort of comments are not rare. We receive them often, and each one is touching and re-affirms why we do what we do.

We can’t eradicate stupidity, so I know I’ll always be reading the sort of comments I started the article with but, hopefully, with enough education – and a collective social maturity – we’ll see fewer of them, and fewer people suffering long-term problems caused by alcohol.

Job vacancy – General Manager

We are sad to announce that our General Manager Eva Kahan will be leaving us next month for pastures new.

We are now recruiting Eva’s successor and invite our valued and knowledgeable customers, and others, who have the right skills and experience to submit applications for the post.

You are an experienced, energetic, decisive manager with proven leadership skills, and a can-do, hands-on attitude.

You want to be pro-actively involved in developing this growing enterprise and realising your own managerial potential.

You are ready to play a key role in enabling your team to reach targets and inspiring others to pull together to take this enterprise to its next level

You understand the operational needs and processes of a busy warehouse and customer service environment and, ideally, have experience in the drinks industry.

You will take control of the day-to-day business function and work on your own initiative at the head of a team of warehouse and admin staff in close liaison with company directors.

Salary negotiable depending on skills and experience. The role is based in Manchester.

We are a unique drinks specialist delivering choice to customers who demand and receive the highest level of service and satisfaction from a team that aims to get it right first time, every time.

You’ve got what it takes. Join us.

Please email christine@alcoholfree.co.uk

Closing date 21 August 2015

You helped raise nearly £6,000 to fight breast cancer!

Our ‘Know Your Vital Statistics’ campaign to raise awareness – and money – to fight breast cancer has successfully come to an end. With your help we’ve raised just short of £6,000 for the Pink Ribbon Foundation, a registered charity who provide grants to organisations working in the field of breast cancer research and support.

Now the charity Alcohol Concern has used funding from the Pink Ribbon Foundation to publish a fact sheet on the statistics from the Million Women Study by Oxford University.

Researchers say that one glass of wine a day raises breast cancer risk by up to 12% but 86% of people are unaware of the connection.

Remember, you can gain the heart-health benefits of wine from our de-alcoholised wines, without the increased risks to your health.

Thank you for your support!

Drink to your heart's content during Alcohol-Free Week

Alcohol Free-Week 2015 starts today to encourage people to cut down on booze and still enjoy the benefits of wine and beer. 

Lots of people took part in Dry January campaigns this year. But if a 31-day thirst was a month too much to ask, why not try giving your liver a rest just for a week.

Alcohol-Free Week was launched by The Alcohol-Free shop in 2007 to encourage people to have at least two alcohol-free days a week.

Visit the Alcohol-Free Week web site for lots of information on alcohol, and a chance to win a case of non-alcoholic Bavaria Fruity Rose or Lemon Radler!

Alcohol-Free Week encourages drinkers to adopt healthy habits for life rather than a zero-tolerance approach.

Experts agree it takes just two or three alcohol-free days a week to prevent long-term health risks associated with alcohol.

Our wines have all the benefits of ordinary wine and alcohol-free beers have been shown to cut cholesterol and cancer risks.

So stock up on some great-tasting alternative today and raise a toast to good health!

Go to The Alcohol-Free Shop …

New Bavarian beers coming soon!

Bavarian Beer Horses

The first load of our fantastic new Bavarian beers will arrive within the next 2.5 weeks. It’ll be shipped by truck and ferry, and not by horse, don’t worry. Meanwhile we will be supplying you with snippets of information about the delicious beers and the quality craft brewery behind them to whet your appetite! As the Bavarians say: Prosit!

Vote for us as best retailer

We’re asking fans of The Alcohol-Free Shop to help us win recognition as a top-rank retailer.

The Manchester Food and Drink Festival awards scheme gives you a chance to nominate your favourite food or drink outlet.

As the UK’s premier alcohol-free specialist, we have the widest range of alcohol-free drinks available.

We believe we offer an unrivalled service to those who want to avoid alcohol.

We’ve invested in a top-quality retail outlet to give our customers a relaxed and comfortable shopping experience and excellent personal service. We invite people to try before they buy without obligation.

Our website allows people to order online at their convenience 24/7 and have wines and beers delivered to their door.

We have well-informed staff taking phone orders and offering help and advice during opening hours six days a week.

So, vote for us as the BEST FOOD AND DRINK RETAILER OF THE YEAR

Thanks for your support!

Go to http://foodanddrinkfestival.com/awards/

Buy Ariel now – before it's too late

 

Ariel wines have announced a decision to discontinue some of their products.

We have on order the full current range of Ariel wines which are being transported from California as we write.

We are expecting this stock will be delivered to us in early August.

We are offering you the chance to place a pre-order now to ensure you have an ongoing supply of these best sellers.

This will be your last chance EVER to buy Ariel Rouge, Ariel Blanc and ArielZinfandel.

When it’s gone, it’s gone.

We have a limited amount of Ariel Rouge in stock now. Our final delivery of Rouge, as well as Blanc and Zinfandel, are due to arrive in August.

When you place your pre-order, you will guarantee your place in the queue to be among the first to receive your wines when they arrive in our warehouse.

Ariel Merlot and Brut were discontinued earlier this year.

In future, Ariel will produce only Chardonnay (also on pre-order now) and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Don’t delay. Place your order today.

Do you love our drinks and want to see them in your local?

For a long time customers have asked for cards to help promote our drinks in their favourite bars, restaurants etc. We now have them! Next time you order, you can request some on the checkout page and we’ll put them in with your drinks! Thanks in advance for your help!

 

Ambassador Cards
Ambassador Cards