Business Advice With Duncan Murray Wines - A Wine Shop With A Ridiculously Good Personality
"Sometimes you don’t see any return from an event until 6 months later but it’s all about getting the word out there."
Today we are joined by Duncan Murray, the owner of self-named and award winning wine shop Duncan Murray Wines in Market Harborough. Also boasting one of the UK's Top 100 Small Businesses in 2015. With 17 years of experience under his belt, Duncan knows how essential it is for his wine business to stay on-trend, in-the-know and collaborative with fellow Market Harborough businesses.
From fun pop-up wine bar events to providing delicious booze for weddings: this is a wine business ahead of its game.
Read on for business insider tips, first-hand advice and quirky ideas from the very best.
However... Duncan's addictive and energetic zeal for his business is infectious, so be warned, you're about to be inspired...
Q. If you were a wine which would you be and why?
A. Southern Portuguese red – quirky, full bodied and very fruity
Q. One tipple to drink for the rest of your life?
A. There are so many; vintage Champagne, Ouzo, gin – too hard to choose
Q. That's three (!!)...What (other than wine) makes you tick?
A. Cycling, fireworks and cake
Q. We are having fun picturing all three at once. Where did the idea to open Duncan Murray Wines come from?
A. I built up ideas from 1989 onwards when I worked with Oddbins and then on vineyards and visiting different regions and wine merchants and in 2001 my wife Megan suggested we go for it.
Q. Is there anything that makes your independent wine shop a bit different?
A. Yes; our strap line says it all. Wines, beers and spirits with personality
Q. Your wine business certainly has an approachable & knowledgeable brand identity and lives up to its strapline; do you think this is important for a business in a smaller town like Market Harborough?
A. Yes, amongst other things you want to be a go-to place. Customers need to feel happy to come to us in the first place and in Market Harborough there’s an opportunity to really get to know them and then they feel happy to come back.
Q. We had a lot of fun tasting every single flavour ofTwo Birds Gin in your store a few months ago. The Two Birds absinthe was also a treat. Does keeping customers interactive and entertained like this help to keep your business bustling?
A. For sure; getting customers to try different drinks is fun as well as educational plus everybody would prefer to only buy what they like. You don’t want to fork out £40 and then get home to find a gin isn’t to your taste.
Q. Very true. Anything you know now you wish you knew back in 2001?
Planning is essential. Do your research. Pay on time. Don’t over order. Put cash aside weekly to pay taxes. Remember to take days off and holidays.
Q. In what ways do you drum up business? New business tips please!
A. Tasting is believing. Introducing people to new tastes, grapes, drinks. Keep them excited. We do Saturday tastings, masterclasses, pop-up wine bar, networking (FSB, Chamber of Commerce)
Q. In your experience what do you think the benefits are (if any) of pairing up with other businesses?
A. Cross-pollination works for us e.g. this wine is great with this fish from Hobbs fishmongers, a particular sausage from Bates butchers or a cheese from Emerson and Wests. Keeping a feeling of camaraderie between the independent shops is essential and hopefully they’ll recommend us in return. We also do promo events with Clarke & Roskrow Opticians which are good because they can sometimes put us in touch with people we’ve never seen before so you never know what it might bring. Sometimes you don’t see any return from an event until 6 months later but it’s all about getting the word out there.
Q. Can you tell us a bit more about bio-dynamic wines? And why are they growing in popularity?
A. It’s all about looking after your land and the environment. There is a biodynamic calendar for gardeners plus a book called ‘When Wine Tastes Best’ by Matthias Thun available from Floris Books. Plus there’s an App for the phone. So simply there are fruit and flower days which are ‘good’ days and leaf, root and avoid days which are ‘bad’ days. If you have a biodynamic wine it will taste better on a fruit or flower day while on a leaf, root or avoid day it won’t be nasty it’ll just be a bit boring. A few quotes:
“Before the tasting, I was really unconvinced, but the difference between the days was so obvious I was completely blown away” – Jo Ahearne, winemaker for Marks & Spencer.
“We tried 8 wines on Tuesday which was a Leaf day, and then the same wines again on Thursday, which was a Fruit day. And it was totally conclusive. It wasn’t that the wine tasted bad on the Tuesday but it was much more expressive on the Thursday. It was more exuberant and on-song. It was like the heavens opened, the clouds parted and the wine just expressed itself” – David Motion, wine merchant at The Winery in Maida Vale, London.
Q. What's next for Duncan Murray Wines?
A. Consolidation but also a ‘Wine-Club’ e.g. a subscription-based monthly case
Q. Last but by no means least... A pop up wine bar?! Please tell us when and where. And should we bring the cheese?
A. ‘Wunderbar’ has now been open a year serving up exciting wines by the glass with a weekly changing menu including still wine, sparkling wine, fortified wine, gin, beer and soft drinks plus we have a small menu of cheese boards and cured sausage. Wunderbar pops up Wednesday to Friday 4pm – 9pm and we’re thinking about doing a regular quiz and possibly a ‘French’ night.
Vital tips to take away
1. Collaborate with and support other local businesses
2. Get to know your market by trying new and different events to see what makes people tick
3. Be yourself, because that is a huge part of your business and customers love it
4. Keep your business interactive, social and fun so customers crave more
5. Remain an expert in your field. Knowledge = Power.
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