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Digital Readiness


We beat bigger budgets by focusing on our independent niche

Gil Sherwin, founder of Best of British Beer, is proud of the company's independent status
Gill Sherwin knows that customers are increasingly choosing independents over corporate brands

Name: Best of British Beer
Location: Newcastle
Employees: 10
Founded in: 2011
Tip: “Look for those little growth areas in your business. If you like and value something, there’s a good chance consumers will do the same.”

The problem

Ecommerce site Best of British Beer was founded in 2011 to enable people to buy hard-to-access beers from around the UK online. However, the market became increasingly challenging in 2017, when multinationals like AB InBev and Heineken bought several of its competitors. 

Best of British Beer was determined to stick to its independent roots, but it needed to find ways to beat online retailers with bigger digital marketing budgets.

The solution

The company started by focusing on its niche as an independent. As founder Gill Sherwin explained, consumers are increasingly choosing to shop at independents over big corporates.

“The actual consumer on the street usually doesn’t know whether a business is independent or not, so we have to really push the independent angle. If a customer knows Budweiser is behind a site, it’s something they do care about,” she said.

The firm could also be more flexible than bigger rivals. While their competitors had more funding, they also faced lengthy and complex sign-off processes. 

Best of British Beer emphasised its ability to build and deliver bespoke products quickly. It took one person to approve an order and all their suppliers were based locally, often situated a mile down the road. This landed them clients who travelled a lot and required orders to be shipped to global destinations quickly.

To concentrate on its own growth, the company made the decision to limit the number of companies they supplied. Best of British Beer already works with businesses like Selfridges, Funky Pigeon and, but it cut four additional clients.

“It was the most radical change we made. When we’re supplying clients, we’re relying on them to grow, rather than driving growth ourselves. We wanted to focus more on our own website,” Gill explained. 

The results

Despite third party partnerships making up 60 per cent of the business, the company’s own website is now its biggest source of revenue. It’s also the fastest growing area of the business. Gill believes their competitors’ investment in advertising has even helped to boost Best of British Beer’s sales.

“One of our competitors advertised beer gifts on TV around Father’s Day. The next day, we had a massive spike in orders. All the advert did was put the idea of buying beer for your dad in people’s heads. Yes, the competition is a challenge, but it also provides an opportunity. Gifting beer is more mainstream. All you have to do is get people to think about something, then they will inevitably shop around.”

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