The Salford Rum Company had a great 2019. Having launched in 2018 the business won the Rising Star Award at the 2019 Salford Business Awards, last year released a limited-edition Pride bottle to help fund Salford Pride events and were looking forward to launching the country’s first rum dispensary. And then Covid19 struck.
“With all the bars and restaurants being forced to close half our customers disappeared overnight,” admits co-founder Tommy Gaughan.
However Gaughan, along with co-founder James Harrison, turned their attention to online trade and having emerged from lockdown are again appearing at markets around Greater Manchester over coming weeks.
The Salford Rum Company celebrates the imports and the people of Salford docks through the flavours of their various spirits. With two main large-batch spirits and eye-catching bottles – an illustration of the old Salford docks designed by local artist, Dave Draws – the company sells in local bars and restaurants and appears at markets across the North-West.
With lockdown ending, founder Tommy reflects on a strange 2020 and hopes for the future.
How did you personally find lockdown – and how was it from a business perspective?
It’s all been a bit odd really. James and I have full time jobs, along side running Salford Rum, so the switch to home working has been tough. It’s more difficult to get projects progressed and I do miss the social aspects and collaborative working that you normally get in an office.
For Salford Rum it has obviously been disappointing that many of our summer events have been cancelled, but on the other hand this has give us some time to look at the business strategically, rather than getting lost in the day-to-day. As a result we have some very new products and marketing campaigns in the pipeline for later in 2020.
What events do you have lined up?
The local Makers Markets have been back for a few weeks now. We spent the first couple of weeks visiting markets to assess the procedures in place, as well as the wider impact of lockdown being eased. We had a great day at our first market back in Urmston last weekend.
This weekend we are at Northern Quarter and we have our first Salford Market at the Lowry on the 25th & 26th July – we can’t wait!
What changes have you had to make to how you do business?
With all the bars and restaurants being forced to close half our customers disappeared overnight. Initially this was quite a shock, but we have switched focus to online, both our own website and other retailers such as Selfridges, Amazon and Master of Malt.
We have supported sales with promotions, in particular our £10 off for Key Workers, which is still going strong, over 1000 people have used our Key Worker discount code so far.
You have been giving discounts to key workers since lockdown. Why was it important to do that for you?
We both have family members who work in the NHS and wider key services, so it was important to us to show our support to these people during lockdown. We have been fortunate in that we have been able to work from home in relative safety while Key Workers have been far more exposed to the risks of the virus.
The discount is still available to all key workers. All they need to do is email us on firstname.lastname@example.org from their work account, or send a photo of their work ID.
“People have been enjoying a good drink under lockdown”
What has the response of customers been so far?
The response from our customers has been great. It would appear that people have been enjoying a good drink under lockdown, our website sales are up over 1500% on the same period in 2019.
We have seen customers experiment with our rums in no end of cocktail recipes and it’s been great to see everyone sharing their creations on social media.
Do you feel the government has done enough to help businesses?
We have not yet been able to access the government funding that we are entitled to. We use a Fintech specialist bank for startup businesses and they have struggling to get the lending in place.
I know there are thousands of businesses in exactly the same boat and us, so I think the government need to address this and support the businesses that, as yet, have fallen through the gap.
What’s selling best?
It’s pretty even in sales between our Original Spice and Dark Spice rum. If you like your rum neat or over ice I recommend our Original Spice. If you like to mix your rum with cola or ginger beer then go for the Dark Spice.
Any specific plans for the future?
We are looking forward to getting back to the Christmas Markets later in the year, and we can’t wait to launch some of the projects that we have been working on in lockdown, including a top secret local collaboration, which will be announced soon!