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2015 year in review and hopes and fears for 2016: Nik Darlington, Red Squirrel Wine

Published:  29 December, 2015

For founder of Red Squirrel Wine, Nik Darlington, 2015 was a year of tremendous growth. Next year Darlington is looking forward to getting his wines even further around the UK. He sees that in 2016 the way forward, although challenging, will be through building a loyal and sustainable customer base.

How was 2015 for you and your business?

2015 was a huge leap forward for Red Squirrel, with revenue more than doubling year-on-year, doubling full-time staff and hosting our first full portfolio event.  

What do you think were the most significant things that happened or issues and trends that occurred in 2015?

For Red Squirrel, there were some small things here and there that were pretty significant, like winning new agencies and clients against competition from much bigger players, but for us the single most significant thing was our portfolio event in October.

For the trade generally, the march of indies and new bars or restaurants spread around the UK, showing London doesn't necessarily have to hog the limelight.  

What opportunities are you most looking forward to working on in 2016?

Taking what we do further afield around Britain, as while London is still a wealth of opportunity in itself, there are so many exciting things happening in other towns and cities around the country. That and working on a more extended version of the pop-up we ran in east London this Christmas.  

What are the biggest challenges facing the trade in 2016?

There is definitely a picking up in activity generally as economic sentiment improves, but this presents huge risks as well as opportunities. On top of this, there is a genuine groundswell of interest in trading up, being adventurous and so on: the biggest challenge is to make that growth in interest and buying power sustainable.

So for the independent on and off-trades it will be about taking advantage of the upturn but at the same time building a sustainable, loyal customer base that doesn't flee at the first whiff of slowing growth or downturn. Customer service is ultimately the independent sector's USP, and we have to focus on that.  

Who are the people/companies/retailers to watch in 2016?

I can't single any one business or person out as there are many doing great things, or on the verge of doing them.  

What are you doing for Christmas and New Year?

Getting some well earned rest with the family!  

What will be your favourite tipple over Christmas and New Year?

Something old, splendid and Bordelais from my father's cellar, in other words the antithesis of what I deal with on a day to day basis.  

Favourite Christmas film?

Love Actually  

Ideal day out over Christmas period? 

Walking the dogs along the South Downs  

What do you want most from Father Christmas? 

A new hat and boots  

New Year's resolution?

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