Vender of the Week: Hop Burns & Black

If you’re a fan of craft beer, hot sauce, or vinyl, South London-based retailer Hop Burns & Black is pretty much your heaven. The shop is the brainchild of New Zealand-born duo Jen Ferguson and Glenn Williams, and it’s become a social hotspot in its Peckham Rye neighborhood — even winning Time Out’s Most Loved Peckham Shop twice in the yearly Love London Awards.

Using Vend and Shopify, the retailer has seen 40% year over year (YOY) growth and has increased sales 25% via ecommerce. We chatted with Jen to find out why they went with Vend in the first place, how they keep their loyal customers happy, and what they’re planning for the future. Read on for the interview!

Cover stars! Thank you @dulwichdiverter. #chuffed #dulwich #community #craftbeer #hiphops #saycheese

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Tell us a little about yourself, your business, and your local community. Why are you passionate about what you do? What’s Hop Burns & Black all about?

Someone once said if you do what you love, it doesn’t feel like work. So we thought about what we loved the most, and Hop Burns & Black was born — a shop devoted to our three greatest obsessions: beer, hot sauce, and vinyl records.

We’re based in Peckham Rye, South London, where we also live. It’s a great place to set up an independent business; there’s a strong community spirit, and everyone is incredibly supportive of people doing their own thing. We’ve been lucky enough to win Time Out’s Most Loved Peckham Shop twice in the annual Love London Awards, and the feeling is mutual. We have amazing customers!

Our mission statement is “all killer, no filler.” At the moment, it seems like there’s a beer shop popping up on every corner in London. So it’s important for us, as one of the first wave of specialist craft beer retailers, to continue to differentiate ourselves — not just by providing the warmest, friendliest customer service around but by ensuring we have an unrivalled selection of beer.

We’re obsessed with finding the world’s best beers (we even import them all the way from New Zealand), and this reputation is why people travel from all over the place to visit us in our little corner of South London or get our beers sent to them all across the UK. It also helped us win London Retailer of the Year at the 2016 Celebrate British Beer Awards.

What systems and/or technology were you using before you switched to Vend?

We used Vend from day one.

Canned fuss c/o @northernmonkbrewco and friends. #beersofhbb #instabeer #beerstagram #cheersguys #craftbeer #fussbeer

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What specific pain points or issues brought you to Vend, and why did you choose us over similar options?

With thousands of products and an ever-changing selection, we knew we needed a solution that brought together seamless inventory management with a user-friendly POS.

We researched extensively online, and Vend came out on top. We then asked people who we knew were Vend users for their thoughts and met with them to see how the system actually worked.

How did Vend solve those issues for you?

The biggest bonuses for us initially were the ease with which we could get everything set up for opening day (back in November 2014) and the intuitive register interface.

We had a number of delays in the fitout, which saw us still sweeping up sawdust two hours before we were due to open. We didn’t even get time to train ourselves up on how to use the iPad register until just before the first customer walked through the door! Thankfully it was simple, and within five minutes we had the hang of it. We never looked back.

With more than 1,000 products that change on a weekly basis, we also needed to have complete control over our inventory. With our move to online sales in April 2016, this became even more important to avoid disappointing customers. There’s nothing worse than getting excited about purchasing great beer, only to find that the shop’s stock counts were out and the beer you bought doesn’t actually exist. Vend allows us to keep a ridiculously accurate stockroom and to keep our online customers happy.

What have been your biggest wins with Vend? How have we helped you succeed?

We save on hours spent stocktaking. Vend allows us to carry out partial stock counts as and when needed on a regular basis while the shop is open; our staff can easily fit this in around their other duties. This means we can stay on top of our stock numbers without having to close the shop or tie up staff. We know of other shops like ours that do a manual stock count every week; Vend saves us countless hours! It also means our full stock takes each quarter are much more accurate.

We win sales by getting new products online quickly: the seamless Vend-Shopify integration has been so important to us. We now do 25% of our turnover through online sales, and much of this is down to the speed at which we’re able to load new products to the site. Having the latest “fuss” beer is important to our customers, many of whom suffer badly from beer FOMO, so the majority of our sales happen on Wednesdays and Thursdays (our delivery days). By being super-quick to get our products online, we’re able to snatch a lot of business from slower competitors.

Reporting at a glance helps our profitability: we really appreciate the level of reporting Vend allows. Vend Reporting is enormously helpful to us, whether it’s managing our products and profitability, seeing at a glance what’s selling best and what’s moving slowly, knowing which products are most profitable, or managing staff (for instance, looking back over previous holiday periods to see how we should most effectively schedule staff for quiet and busy periods).

How have you found using a cloud-based POS system?

We use the cloud religiously — for accounting, team scheduling, project management, etc. It’s essential for us to be able to control every aspect of our business wherever we are, whether we’re doing the weekly orders spreadsheet in our pyjamas at the breakfast table or switching out staff shifts using our scheduling software from deep within a beer festival.

Vend enables us to run so much of our business remotely. This is even more important now that we’re in the process of setting up a second shop. We (and our store managers) are going to need complete visibility over both outlets from wherever we are.

How do you use Vend in your business? What’s the setup like in your store(s)? Are you using iPad, PCs, or other devices?

We use the iPad register for the majority of our sales, with a laptop and/or second iPad on standby if we need a second till. We also use laptops for adding new products, answering sales queries, checking in on reporting, etc.

We also use a Socket Mobile Bluetooth scanner for barcode scanning. It’s been invaluable to us; it makes the sales process so much faster. We’d have a queue out the door if we didn’t use it.

How does your business run now as opposed to before you switched to Vend?

We’ve never known business life without Vend, but we can’t imagine business life without it.

At a glance, we can see exactly how much stock we have on hand; how well we’ve done that day, week, month, year; what’s selling best; what needs a push.

It’s enabled us to move online smoothly and easily and has to see YOY growth of 40%.

Do you recommend Vend? What do you say to other retailers about Vend?

We do. We always give Vend a 5-star rating, but we also advise people to look at how it connects with other parts of their business. Vend works well on its own, but it’s even more valuable when it’s used as part of a wider ecosystem.

Whenever we look at a new piece of cloud software, we always look at whether or not we can integrate it with our suite of tools — and Vend is the central interface to everything we do.

Follow Hop Burns & Black on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; head here to read our in-depth case study on them; and pay them a visit if you’re in the South London area!

About Nikki Michaels

Nikki is Vend's content and copy wizard. American-born and Auckland-based, she's into reading (a lot), writing (obviously), and travelling (always).