Open again…

We re-opened for business yesterday (Thursday) and all pending orders have now been despatched. Apologies for having to shut on Tuesday and Wednesday but it was simply too dangerous for staff to get into work and the bad weather meant deliveries were unlikely to reach customers anyway, even if we had despatched them.

Understandably, couriers are still having problems delivering to lots of areas and we are still expecting delays in orders reaching customers but they are on their way. If you haven’t had your order by early next week, please do contact us.

Our Manchester shop will be closing early today though, at about 4pm, to allow staff to get home safely before it gets too dark. Thanks for your understanding.

How deep is your snow? Take a snap and claim a discount on your next order.

Our Manchester shop in the snow
Our Manchester shop in the snow

We’ve been snowed in since yesterday in Manchester where we’ve had at least 8″. We haven’t been able to ship online orders and we’ve had to shut our Manchester shop too.

Conditions have worsened overnight and the roads are treacherous.

There’s nothing worse for a shop than not being able to sell, so we thought we’d have a bit of fun and hopefully encourage you to do a bit of shopping.

We want you to get outside with a rule or tape measure and take a picture of yourself showing us just how deep your snow is. Then we’ll give you a discount on the cost of an order you place this week based on the depth of the snow in your area.

(more…)

Adult drinks for adult diners

Yesterday I asked a question on Twitter.

“Why do restaurants and chefs think they know better than their customers when it comes to alcohol-free wine and beer?”

It provoked a few responses.

One person replied “perhaps because they do, food and drink being their area of professional expertise?”

This is the same sort of thinking the leads to chefs refusing to cook a steak to the customer’s liking because the chef knows best.

Well, maybe the chef does know best, from a technical perspective, but from a taste perspective the only thing that matters is the taste-buds of the paying customer.

The same applies to drink.

If a customer wants an alcohol-free beer or wine, that’s what they want.

They don’t want water.

They don’t want cola.

And they don’t want yet another orange juice.

They want a good de-alcoholised Merlot, a fruity de-alcoholised Chardonnay or a great alcohol-free wheat beer.

Other people replied agreeing that they found it hard to find alcohol-free drinks when they went out, and they wanted the choice too.

One woman said she often phoned up before hand to find out if the restaurant sold any alcohol-free wine or beer.

Her husband doesn’t drink, and he isn’t alone. There are lots people like him around the country.

Pregnant women. Dieters. People on medication. People in recovery. Drivers. Workers on call. People of certain faiths.

There are lots of reasons people don’t drink.

As I said in my reply to her “yes & many people base their decisions on availability of alcohol-free for one or more in the group. no alcohol-free = lost sales”

We’ve had restaurants tell us they don’t sell alcohol-free wines because they don’t think they are good enough.

The chances are they haven’t tasted an alcohol-free wine since Eisberg, 20 years ago. We don’t sell Eisberg.

But even if they have tasted a good alcohol-free wine and still don’t like it, that isn’t the point.

We are testament to the fact people who drink alcohol-free wines like them.

We’ve been selling them for nearly 4 years. We sell a lot of them.

It’s like a restaurant refusing to sell anything but meat.

No one expects all restaurants to sell only vegetarian food. But they do expect a vegetarian option.

If you were a vegetarian in a group of meat eaters and the restaurant had nothing to offer you except beans on toast, you’d be understandably annoyed.

Especially if your fellow diners were tucking into the finest steak or lobster.

But when it comes to drinks, all we are offered are the beans on toast – the water, the orange juice, the cola.

We aren’t 10 years old. We don’t want soft-drinks.

We are adults. We want an adult drink with our adult food.

Is that really asking too much?

Announcing XA – new non-alcoholic cocktail from the USA

XA Rum and Diet Cola - only 20 calories per 250ml can!
XA Rum and Diet Cola - only 20 calories per 250ml can!

We’re really very excited to be stocking XA – an incredible new brand of non-alcoholic cocktail from the USA.

XA comes in two great flavours of Rum & Diet Cola and Bourbon and Cola

They are created using only natural ingredients, elixirs and flavours to replicate the taste of these popular classic cocktails.

XA Rum and Diet Cola flavour has all the tropical taste and aroma of the spirit of the Caribbean with only 20 calories per can. It’s a great-tasting alternative for those who want to enjoy the warming essence of the West Indies and watch their figure.

XA Bourbon and Cola flavour has the distinctive taste and aroma of the liquor of the southern states with 110 calories per can. Served on the rocks, it’s an authentic-tasting choice for those who like to unwind with the soothing flavours of the oak-aged spirit of Kentucky.

XA is sold in single-flavour packs of four, 12 and 24, or as a mixed case of 24 cans.

The mixed case gives you the chance to try both varieties and share the pleasure with friends. It cotains 12 cans of XA Rum and Diet Cola Flavour and 12 cans of Bourbon and Cola Flavour.

XA. All you would expect of a classic cocktail, except alcohol.

View XA here.

New site live…

Our new web site has gone live today – just!

I do the technical side of our business myself. I’ve got a history of programming and web production so it’s part of my “job” to do it and I’m glad I do – most of the time! When it goes well, it’s great to be able to quickly make changes to our site. It gives us a cutting edge over other web sites who have to get another company in to do the work for them which is slower and costs more.

Of course, I have to take the rough with the smooth and the last 24 hours or so have been pretty rough.

We’ve been working on our new site for a long time and last night decided to make it live. This is a pretty big, all-or-nothing sort of thing. Although in the absolute worst case, we could roll back to the old site, it would mean a lot of hard work to do so. Basically once the new site is live, it’s live and if anything goes wrong it has to be fixed, quickly.

Well, it went live last night and I went to bed at 2am this morning thinking everything was fine. I woke up to find no orders. Something was wrong.

The problem was customers couldn’t add products to their basket. Which, obviously, meant no sales.

I spent all morning trying to find the problem. Eventually I had to re-upload all the code from our development server and, for no obvious reason, it worked… Phew…

Then, about an hour or so ago, I found it had gone again! I really couldn’t work out why. Nothing, I thought, had changed. It just seemed to stop.

So, two more frustrating hours and eventually the problem was traced to an upgrade of WordPress – this blog – which I had done just before I went to bed last night, and just before the problem started again this evening…

Something was causing a conflict and it meant customers couldn’t shop. It was really simple to fix. Once I found out what it was! Such is life…

Anyway, the site is now live and we hope you like it. We’re really proud of it. We think it looks great and is easier to use than the old site.

There may well be the odd bug (hopefully not as serious as the one that caused us to lose a day’s sales today!) and if you do find anything not quite right, please do contact us and let us know.

And if you have any feedback on the new site – good OR bad – please get in touch and tell us what you think.

Thanks!

Put in my place

I was at a party on Saturday night to celebrate the 60th birthday of a long-time friend of ours. A good time was had by all, including those of us who didn’t drink alcohol.

It certainly made a change to go to a party and be able to enjoy a glass of de-alcoholised wine and a cold beer. The host had stocked up on some of our drinks and many guests took advantage of them. It also made a change to not have drunken people say “Why are you not drinking? What’s wrong with you?” which is common if you are seen with a soft drink in your hand.

With a glass of de-alcoholised wine or beer in your hand, no one is any the wiser and they just get on with having a good time.

Ever better was seeing a couple of people pouring out some of the Weinkonig Merlot I had brought along, taking a sip, and then walking away happy – completely unaware they were drinking de-alcoholised wine.

To get to the title of this blog “Put in my place” I was told off by a friend of the host, who is also a customer of ours, because I hadn’t updated the blog much recently. I did apologise to her, and do also to you. We have had a lot to do recently with the shop and warehouse move, getting the new shop ready, etc.

I’ve also personally been busy on our new web site which is due to go live very soon. It’s based on the same site we have now, with an improved design and the odd enhancement to make your shopping experience better (for instance, you will be able to add items to your basket from the category listing without having to click on to the individual item).

When the site goes live, please don’t panic! Yes, it looks quite different from the current site on first glance, but it does basically work the same as the current site and you shouldn’t have any problems shopping as normal. If you do though, please let us know. We have worked hard to get the site ready and bug-free, but it’s always possible something may still be wrong when it goes live and we’d appreciate it very much if you would tell us of any problems you find so we can fix them.

Proud of Pubs (that sell a good choice of alcohol-free!)

Last week on Twitter.com I was lucky enough to become the 2000th follower of the twitter account @ukpubs launched by the pub trade magazine The Publican and won a T-shirt. The shirt arrived emblazoned with the statement “The Publican – Proud of Pubs”. Rather ironic you might say, but the fact is I am Proud of Pubs – or, to be specific, I’m proud of pubs that provide a wide-range of alcohol-free drinks. Sadly that isn’t enough of them.

Too often we hear tales from customers of their struggle to find a decent alcohol-free beer in a pub. Kaliber is still the staple in many pubs (we do sell it and some customers love it, but I don’t rate it and neither do most of our customers). If you’re lucky you might find one other beer in some pubs which tends to be a brand dictated by whoever the pub is tied to. You‘ll find Becks in some, Bitburger in some others, Holsten in a few. But very few pubs will actually offer customers a real choice.

Imagine if you had the choice of only one alcoholic beer in a pub, customers wouldn’t put up with it. But for most of us who choose not to drink, whether permanently as in my case, or temporarily because they are driving, dieting, on medication or simply want a night out without the booze, there is often no choice.

The lack of choice, combined with the frequently ‘comic’ replies to the question “Do you have any alcohol-free beer?” really serves to stop non-drinkers from asking. Then the landlord says, there’s no demand.

Trust me, the demand is out there. We sell enough of it across the UK for home consumption to know that. And one of the most common things we get from customers is “Why can’t you get pubs to carry your drinks?”

Well they can, and many do, but not enough. As well as offering pubs a wide range of beers (over 25 different alcohol-free beers – yes, there are that many and most are great), we even offer customised point of sale material including “The Alcohol-Free Menu”- laminated menus for tables and bar tops.

John Risby (left) of The Alcohol-Free Shop (wearing The Publican's "Proud of Pubs" t-shirt) and John Martin, Landlord of The Parkside, Prestwich, Bury.
John Risby (left) of The Alcohol-Free Shop (wearing The Publican's "Proud of Pubs" t-shirt) and John Martin, Landlord of The Parkside, Prestwich, Bury.

One pub that is doing it right is The Parkside in Prestwich, Bury. Landlords John and Eileen Martin have a wide range of alcohol-free beers and wine supplied by The Alcohol-Free Shop. As well as the custom menus, they also have other material around the pub promoting the products. The great thing about putting the menus on every table is it means customers aren’t afraid to ask “Do you sell any alcohol-free beer?”, they just have ask for the one they want from the choice on the menu. It’s that simple.

If you’re a pub customer who wants an alcohol-free beer, why not have a word at your local. Tell them about The Alcohol-Free Shop and The Alcohol-Free Menu, and tell them they’ve already got a customer waiting – you.

If you run a pub yourself then, like your competitor down the road, you’re probably looking for inventive ways to increase your income to help you get through the recession. Speak to us about how we can help you promote alcohol-free drinks in your pub and help generate some extra sales. Otherwise, you could be missing out on potential customers who feel let down by the lack of choice.

You can contact us via email at info@alcoholfree.co.uk, freephone on 0800 224 8024, follow us on twitter at @alcoholfree (my personal non-work account is @j_alcoholfree) and, if you are in the north west, why not visit our shop in Failsworth, Manchester?

Kopparberg Pear Cider back in stock

After a long absence I’m really pleased to say we’ve got Kopparberg Pear Cider back on our shelves (both physical here in the Manchester shop and virtual on our web site).

This is a great-tasting non-alcoholic pear cider made with fresh water sourced in the town of Kopparberg, Sweden.

Available to order now at http://www.alcoholfree.co.uk/product_info.php?cPath=2_56&products_id=338