One week in and the off-licence is working just as we hoped. A few customers are going out of their way to pick up modest orders of Rogue, Mikkeller and Flying Dog bottles. And we've had the odd rigger too. Some come in purely for a takeaway order but quite a few are deciding to take an extra bottle home after they've had a couple in the bar. No trouble, no debates, and certainly no "pushing booze on children" or whatever it was that the hysterical Bernard O'Shaughnessy predicted.
But the time to take things to the next level is approaching. Following a suggestion by a regular customer (thanks Ben) we found shopify, a web application that lets small operators like us come up with an online store with little effort. And as long as we handle issues such as shipping, pricing and payments in the simplest way possible, cultbeerstore.co.nz should be in business within days.
I should elaborate on those three issues a little because I'd like to invite constructive feedback.
1. Shipping. This will be by courier. We have to get back in touch with the courier company that we planned this with several months ago to confirm pricing. They gave us a complicated menu of pricing that takes into account weight, volume and destination. This is probably far more complicated than we can achieve with our simple website, so we will just simplify these down to a couple of prices and absorb the differences.
2. Pricing. For now, pricing is based on our bar prices, discounted 20%, which is what we've been doing with takeaway sales in the bar. The results still resemble bar prices as much as bottle store ones, so there's potential to drop them. In fact shopify will let customers claim a percentage discount using a code. At this stage we plan to let people do exactly that if their order is sufficiently large. And trade pricing can be enabled the same way.
3. Payments. We're looking into using payments gateways but it is actually possible to go live without one. The solution is to invite customers to make bank deposits using (in general) internet banking. I think this will actually prove acceptable to most people. I assume that trademe customers use this method regularly. It must be more cost-efficient than using a credit card. A payments gateway may not be too hard to implement and we may even have one by the time we go live, but I'm tempted not to just to see how acceptable direct credits will prove.
Shopify has proven pretty powerful so far. From what I gather there is an API that developers can use to make it perform tasks more complicated than its generic capabilities can be manipulated for. It would be good to hear if anyone has experience with it.