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When a web-based business goes bust....

Editorial Staff

On 5th July 2018, a UK company, Gin Festival Limited, went into administration and its website www.ginfestival.com was taken down .. So, what's this, then...?

The company was formed in 2013 to capitalise in the growing popularity of "mother's ruin" which first in England and then across the world had become fashionable with many new blends being introduced by established distillers and a number of excellent smaller producers coming into the market. As the popularity grew, producers in France and Australia raised their profile, their game and their prices. The business concept was simple: a beer-festival style event for gin where people pay an entrance fee, get a glass that they carry around with them, and taste as many gins as they like, paying only for food if they choose to do so.

This year, the company planned to run 20 festivals across the UK and had sold some 20,000 tickets when its owners announced that, having failed to secure additional financing or sale, "“It is with deep regret that we have had to take the decision to put the Gin Festival business into administration on Thursday 5 July 2018. We tried everything we could to rescue the business so that it would not come to this but unfortunately, we have not been able to do so." The announcement went on "“After 5 years of hard work and passion, this was not a decision we have taken lightly and personally this will mean we lose our home and everything we have worked hard to build. “We ask that you may be able to provide us with your compassion and understanding at this extremely difficult time for us”. 27 staff were immediately dismissed. The business, apparently, ran into trouble when it diversified. It "invested heavily" in its website (which, to be fair, is nice but not very technically sophisticated), developing its own on-line ticketing system (that's a wheel that doesn't need re-inventing: it's the work of moments to do that via any one of several on-line services) and, as The Drinks Business described it "creating an e-commerce business selling craft gins." Again, leaving aside the licensing aspects, that's the work of a couple of hours using an on-line marketing platform and there are many. The conclusion from this, then, is that the owners of the business, Marie and James Harris, did not understand the internet business they were trying to develop.

20,000 tickets had been sold for various events, it has been reported. The administrators, Begbies Traynor, said that the company did not have the money to refund those who had bought and told them to make charge-back claims under their credit cards. This means that the losses fall onto the banks - because the end result is that the charges are added to the company's existing bank debt which the bank knows it will not recover and, ultimately, that means the banks make less profit and that means shareholders, including pension funds, do not see the dividend they should. The website, as it was last saved at archive.org less than a week after the administration began, makes no reference any events after the end of May.

That brings us to "ginfestivalsuk.com" - a website that sells tickets through Eventbright and which shows 11 past events none of which co-incide in dates or venue with those at ginfestival.com. At ginfestivalsuk.com, there are are ten forthcoming events listed, none appearing to match the 20 that were, apparently, cancelled for ginfestival.com. ginfestivalsuk.com is a simple website from a very popular template (Avada) running on Wordpress.

Mr and Mrs Harris put the name of their company, the address and even their own photos on their website at ginfestival.com. There is nothing on the ginfestivalsuk.com website to say who is behind it, there is no company address and the trade and exhibitor form, hosted at googledocs "The form Booking Request Form is no longer accepting responses." However, the linked EventBrite page at https://www.eventbrite.com/o/t... lists ten events from August to early November. A review of a previous event (see http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/new...) says that the event was organised by "Gin Festivals UK" and that one of the hosts is "Clint Jones" and it seems that he is at least the public face of the events. Jones is from Cornwall, not Yorkshire and therefore seems to be a direct competitor, not associated with, the Harrises. But it wasn't easy to find out anything about who was behind the ginfestivalsuk.com events, in part because there is domain privacy by default on whois searches, a rather foolish interpretation of GDPR having killed a vital research tool.

It's not clear which started out first but if the domain names are any indicator, ginfestivalsuk.com was registered in February 2016 and ginfestival.com i July 2013. Perhaps the entry of a competitor into the market using a very similar name, drove the unfortunate expansion into new areas and the ill-advised spending on technology.

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