With online sales increasing by an explosive 640% since the ban on alcohol was lifted, specialist whisky retailer, WhiskyBrother is living up to their recent award as Global Icon of Whisky Single Outlet Retailer of the Year, by providing world-class service to customers.
For the small retailer in Hyde Park, Johannesburg, with a big heart for customer service, finding solutions as to how they could service their loyal and new customers, was their first priority in the days leading up to the lift on the ban of alcohol during lockdown.
Co-owner and founder, Marc Pendlebury, said that it has literally been all hands-on-deck since 1 June. Both him and his business partners, and all other staff, including from their WhiskyBrother Bar in Morningside, have been personally delivering to customers in Pretoria and Johannesburg. Orders to the rest of country are delivered via courier.
“Thankfully, we have many loyal customers and although everyone was very patient due to an enormous backlog to get their orders delivered, we set out to prove why we are the best in the world! Although our business has been hit hard, like many others, due to the lockdown and restrictions on alcohol sales, the years of building relationships and trust with our customers really matters now. With each person that visists our store in Hyde Park, orders from our online shop or visited our bar (pre lockdown) to explore more than 1300 whiskies available, we’ve always aimed for a world-class experience. Working through the night and ensuring that all orders are delivered promptly and personally, is the least that we can do to thank them for their support.”
Pendlebury says that being awarded the Global Icon of Whisky Single Outlet Retailer of the Year at the 2020 Icons of Whisky Awards, held annually by Whisky Magazine in London (26 March), has been to date their proudest moment.
“It’s the first time that a South African retailer has received this international award, beating retailers from across the globe, including Scotland, America, and Ireland. It was a bitter-sweet moment when we received news of our award, as we were in the midst of shutting down our bar due to lockdown restrictions. Thankfully now, at level 3 we are at least able to get back to retail sales and doing what we love.”
“My dream of creating Johannesburg’s first dedicated whisky store, started with a whisky blog over 10 years ago and it’s humbling to look back and reminisce. We decided from the outset that customer service would be a cornerstone of our business while we shared the wonderful world of whisky with all those passionate about the ‘water of life’. It’s incredible to see, as a small independent South Africa business, just how far we’ve come, thanks to the support of the whisky community and dedication of our staff. Even under the difficult economic times in recent years and the massive impact from the Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve still been able to grow and expand our offering.”
Lockdown restrictions have created new business challenges and interrupted the supply chain, causing delays and product shortages. Cashflow management, inventory control and order sizes now need to be more carefully managed on a daily basis, as the constant threat of returning to another possible alcohol ban looms. In the meantime, owners are not drawing any income to ensure their staff are unaffected and to meet their obligations to their landlords. This may explain why the WhiskyBrother team are as dedicated as ever in getting whisky enthusiasts their orders as quickly as possible.
WhiskyBrother opened its doors in 2012 and offers over 600 unique whiskies from around the globe for sale, including special bottlings and exclusive limited releases selected by the WhiskyBrother team. The store is reminiscent of a whisky maturation warehouse with touches of copper, oak and casks for an ultimate whisky shopping experience.
Whilst the WhiskyBrother online store is currently booming, their WhiskyBrother Bar in Morningside, Johannesburg’s first and only dedicated whisky bar, remains closed but will reopen once lockdown restrictions have eased. Their whisky festival, The Only Whisky Show, held annually in late-July has also been indefinitely postponed.