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Humble Grape launches second crowd-funding campaign

Humble Grape is launching a second crowd-funding campaign to fund further expansion, as it gets ready to open its third and fourth sites in London.

James Dawson of Humble Grape

The independent wine bar and retailer currently has sites in Battersea in South West London and Fleet Street in the City but is set to open a third site, in Islington in May, followed by a fourth in the City in August.

The new crowd-funding drive, which launches on 19 March, will be used to fund another five or six sites across London over the next few years, round 3 per year, as well as boosting online sales, its Wine Club and Wine Bank.

Founder James Dawson is hopeful the campaign will top £750k – £1million, as well as boosting its loyal customer base, after its first crowdfunding campaign in 2014 exceeded its target and raised £360k along with an additional £175k from private investors.

“We have a very loyal customer base and want them to be part of our journey. And it is very good for marketing – they have equity and a part in the business, which is good,” he said.

But Dawson told db the expansion plans will look beyond London over the next few years, as he plans to establish a foothold in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool by 2020.

Dawson said the new outlets would fit into one of two models – a city centre wine bar with a simpler food proposition and small retail offer, or a larger ‘neighbourhood’ site, with a bigger food offering.

Humble Grapes first wine bar in Battersea

“We have one of each at the moment – the Fleet Street is our city bar, and the Battersea the neighbourhood – but the Fleet Street site is unique because it is very big and has a big event space as well as tasting room, which means we can do a lot of tastings and corporate events. But we won’t take anything larger than 1,500 – 2,000 sq. feet, which will provide around 60-70 covers,” he said.

Dawson has target areas for each types of bar in and around London, but said he would consider an “interesting proposition” outside those areas, providing it fitted with the brand’s core audience and its easygoing, unfussy ethos. “We have to be careful with our brand, we don’t want it to be too luxury, so something in Mayfair or Sloane Square wouldn’t sit well with the brand. It has to be something off the beaten track,” he said.

While the different sites share the same overall branding, the teams running each site are encouraged to develop an individual “personality” for their store and each has its own individual wine list and food menus. The range currently comprises a revolving wine list of 400 wines from 80 vineyards, with around 35 available by the glass in the bars at a time.

“We want them to be the same but different, reflecting the areas they are in,” Dawson told db.

Currently revenue generated in the business is split to approximately 15% retail, 20% events and 65% from the bar, with retail contributing a higher proportion in ‘neighbourhood’ bars, although it constitutes around 20-30% of the space in each site.

Research undertaken by the company showed that consumers were spending more per bottle than 12 months ago, and more customers were buying a bottle they had tried in the bar to take home, Dawson pointed out.

The business started in 2009 selling boutique wines direct from the supplier at pop-ups, later moving into corporate events and then wholesale before its first crowdfunding campaign allowed it to set up the Battersea bar in 2014. Since then the wholesale operation – which at its height supplied around 40 bars, restaurants and gastro-pubs – has been scaled back to concentrate on the bars and events business.

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