UK: The BottleShop and The Beer Boutique give up

Within one week, two major craft beer retailers in the UK have gone into liquidation in the course of an intensifying competitive environment. The BottleShop announced on Monday that it has appointed a licensed Insolvency Practitioner to place the company into liquidation after two “major suppliers have dropped us with no notice last year.”

Five days before, The Beer Boutique said, the company had entered into a Creditors' Voluntary Liquidation (CVL), a formal insolvency procedure in the UK which involves the directors of an insolvent company voluntarily choosing to bring their business to an end, and wind the company up.

The BottleShop was founded by Andrew Morgan in 2010 and had grown from a small stall at a farmers market in Canterbury, Kent to an influential player in the UK scene. The company maintained bars in London, Canterbury, and Margate; a London warehouse; and a team of 12 full-time and 16 part-time staff members, according to information gathered by GoodBeerHunting.

Less than 2 years ago, The BottleShop was able to raise GBP 395,000 (USD 520,000) through crowd funding which the company said to invest “in a fully refrigerated supply chain for higher value imports. This will allow us to gain access to more prestigious, high-value beer as many US breweries won’t export without this assurance. We are in discussions with more internationally renowned breweries – but can only import their products when we meet their distribution standards,” The BottleShop said at that time.

“Having succeeded on Crowdcube in 2017, we saw a major supplier drop us shortly afterwards and took 23% of our wholesale business with them,” said Andrew Morgan, founder of The Bottle Shop, in a written statement on Monday. “However, we had our highest ever turnover reported in November 2018 and it looked like things were improving but December and January were well under forecast and I knew we had to find a partner or new finance. We brought on a consultant to help with this and quickly realised the extent of the financial legacy we were carrying from the breweries we’d lost.”

The other insolvent craft beer retailer, The Beer Boutique was London's oldest specialist beer bottle shop and used to called itself “your offline social network.” It was also established in 2010 and its founder, Marc Verlet, a laid-back Belgian, said that it was at that time “almost impossible to get a Belgian beer in London. (…) So we opened our own shop in Putney and filled it with the beer that we wanted to drink.” Over the time, the company grew and opened two more shops, one in Wandsworth and one in Tunbridge Wells in addition to their online shop.

Last Wednesday, the company announced, “We’re sad to announce today that The Beer Boutique has entered into a CVL, as a result of which we will be closing all 3 stores with immediate effect.”

It looks like both shops are victims of the quick evolution of the craft beer industry from a business run by enthusiasts to one of professional managers. While the business has turned from low volume and high margin to a higher volume but lower margin business, especially the bigger brands in the craft beer industry are looking for distribution channels which guarantee those higher volumes. Or to quote Morgan: The two breweries, which stopped working with The BottleShop, “chose to send their beer into supermarkets just after they dropped us.”

According to investigations of GoddBeerHunting, the two “major supplier” were Beavertown Brewery, which sold a minority stake to Heineken in May last year (, 26.5.2018) and Danish cult craft brewer Mikkeller which opened in October last year a craft beer bar of its own in London’s Shoreditch district.

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