Get ahead, not advertising

Buying space in a local newspaper is expensive and unproductive. Get creative and reap the rewards

A belief in the need for advertising is a pain in the neck. Not only has it created a breed of irritating, cold-calling salespeople who really won't take no for an answer, it gives rise to that horrible flawed logic of "well if they're doing it, we'd better do it too".

The few times

our shop has advertised in what might be called the "normal" way


in a newspaper and including a c ut-out discount coupon to monitor the return rate

- the results were depressing : five coupons back from a circulation of

3,000; three coupons back from

17,000 (clearly something very wrong there). I'm no expert, but given that we paid for the privilege, this was surely a waste of money?

How is the ruddy-cheeked, twinkle-eyed independent retailer supposed to make a big deal of their business on a small-bucks budget?

You have to try

to do something a bit creative

which, although it might strain the old grey matter somewhat, will have the twin returns of costing very little to do (hopefully) and might even be a bit of fun (and if it isn't, then why bother?). Here are a couple of examples of what we've done

or are going to do


The beer and wine tasting

we organised a while back (mentioned

a few issues ago in the context of it being the time

we met Jez from the Utah Saints) was a good example of what can be done for next to no money, and it

had the superbly bizarre spectacle of a school hall full of slightly tipsy parents. The basics of the event were that we'd agreed to come along and put six wines and eight beers on tasting for the evening.

We would charge for what was opened, discounting the drinks to near cost price


the school could use it as a fundraiser, and we would raise the profile of our splendid little Aladdin's cave of alcohol to all the local parents. The board of governors (it sounds very strict, but believe me, by the end of the evening it was anything but) worked a ticketing system whereby the guests

bought 10 tokens on entry

and could exchange a token for a taste of beer or wine. As a talking point, we'd brought along a bottle of E&E Black Pepper Shiraz, thinking that no one would be interested in shelling out half

their tokens for a shot of concentrated blackcurrant fruit essence. How wrong I was, as this was the first wine to finish, much to the chagrin of the later arrivals.

In order to

keep some handle on whether the event had indeed raised our profile, we distributed about a hundred discount tokens

bearing the legend "I went to a Beer-Ritz tasting, and all I got was this lousy 10 per cent off voucher". To date, about a dozen vouchers used means

this rates as a complete success, at least when judged against our more traditional efforts outlined earlier.

The next event promises to be pleasingly bizarre . Our

Wines of Southern France

promotion will hit the road for a tasting at the final of the Leeds Petanque Club Championship, which hopefully won't be an afternoon under a leaky plastic gazebo, but a recreation of the idyll of le

Midi. Even more strangely, we may end up stocking the club's official beer: Pierre's Biere. Customers, eh?

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