There is no disputing that Covid 19 has had an impact on everyone, the whole world has been affected by the new virus.
Closer to home however it has taken away from us what was supposed to be our growth year. There is no hiding the fact that through our start up phase of Black Storm we have tried things that haven’t worked, the optimist in me would say that we were just ahead of our time, launching a craft beer store in Manchester or a bar in Stockton, the realist in me tells me we just got it wrong. What I do know is that when the time is right I am able to make the tough decisions, and such decisions that I made at the end of 2019, taking the headcount from 27 to 7, and closing venues that didn’t work, put us in a strong position at the start of 2020 to make it a bumper year, with a massive 2020 tour planned, new beers in development and the consolidation of our sites into one super site, we were ready to kick this year into overdrive, then Covid happened.
For me as an entrepreneur this gave me opportunity, and got me buzzing again in a whole new way, we had to change things, and be open to quick change which is where we at Black Storm perform best, overnight we switched our TapHouse in Whitley Bay in to a Pop-Up craft beer off-license and with just 10 days’ notice we took possession of a retail unit in North Shields, and opened a second pop-up Off License.
This adaptability allowed us to maintain trading and selling our wares shifting from trade to direct to consumer. Opening up off-licenses also allowed us to support our friends and colleagues in the craft beer industry and act as a new route to market when most others had shut their doors. Innovation didn’t just stop with repurposing our sites, we also developed our own consumer app, beefed up our webstore and went “direct to consumer” with our home delivery service. Part of this innovation was building long term relationships with others, adding our beers onto the CAMRA Brew2You app, and the Grab by Blueline Taxis Delivery App’s. As the R-rate dropped and the economy started to re-open we called time on our pop-ups and returned to trading our Craft Beer Tap House in Whitley Bay, moving all our stock onto our e-store. Then “Local Lockdown” was introduced, this turned us upside down again, so what do we do now? We repurpose our taphouse again, re-open our Craft Beer Store, “Beer Box” at Stack in Newcastle City Centre and focus on driving more and more guests from our bar, to home delivery of our great beers, We introduce a wider range of packages, from Cans, bottles, to Mini Kegs and Bag In Boxes. We continue to innovate with new services and beer styles, basically if you want our award-winning beers, then you can have them “Anyway you want them”.
One thing that is for sure, both Covid and Black Storm are here to stay, it’s how we develop ourselves into the new normal that will show we’re here for the long haul.