Sarah Holmes

Member Article

Behind the business with Victory Tea

32-year-old Sarah Holmes has brought a new blend of style in her fifth generation family business, Ringtons Ltd by launching Victory Tea. A top quality bulk-buy tea sold only online, it is marketed with all the style and substance of a designer handbag in its vintage-themed packaging bearing the Union Jack flag.

What is your professional background?

I started my career wanting to work in fashion journalism, completing a year’s placement at Red magazine, before returning to Newcastle to launch my own designer clothing store, Ophelia. I did everything from buying stock to staffing the shop, and first learnt the power of selling online by launching a website that soon sold as much fashion as my store did.

This interest in e-commerce grew as every area of the fashion industry became more online than ever before, it was a really exciting time to be in the business. Then I was approached to become marketing manager for the website of award winning designer fashion house, Jules B. I grasped the opportunity to be part of a much bigger operation and very quickly I grew the department, providing placement opportunities for fashion marketing students in nearby universities along the way. The website team grew from four to forty in the two years I was there.

But the family business was always calling, and after doing a compulsory degree and working for five years (a pre-requisite for family members entering into the business), I was considered to join the business as head of e-commerce.

Where did the idea for Victory Tea come from?

My experience in the e-commerce sector and my knowledge of the tea industry lead me to notice a gap in the online market for a premium quality and cost-effective tea, cutting out the supermarket middle-man, and which would appeal to tea-snobs as much as the budget-conscious. Victory Tea covers all of these bases – we have been described as a designer teabag with a high street price tag and have tapped into the growing popularity for consumers to buy quality products directly from a supplier.

What key challenges have you found launching Victory Tea within an already well established business, Ringtons?

Ringtons launched in 1907 and now totals 28 sales offices serving over 300,000 households. Ringtons customers will always want a premium product bought in a little and often basis – Victory Tea is for a different shopper entirely. But it was still important to make that message clear that this brand was to stand alongside Ringtons within the business but would not be competing with it in the market place. Ringtons operates through door-to-door sales, whilst Victory Tea is only available to buy online and in bulk through its own website - making it available to a different type of consumer. The two concepts are very different but as a tea company I thought that we could and should be doing both!

Also, the approach to branding, marketing and PR with Victory Tea is different to how Ringtons traditionally operates. One of the things I love so much about the world of ecommerce is that things can happen and change very quickly – we went from the idea to launch in 6 months, which was a challenging but brilliant experience.

How does Victory Tea differ to other tea products available?

Victory Tea is a quality tea at a bargain price. In aim of saving consumers up to 50% on a similar quality big-name brand, Victory Tea is only available to purchase in big bulk boxes and online. A Superior box contains 16 sachets or a Victorious box contains 40 sachets. That’s a lot of teabags for your money; 640 in the Superior Box (£2 per 80) and 1,600 in the Victorious Box (£1.50 per 80) to be precise. The tea is blended and packed in the UK using a unique vacuum-pack and gas-flush process to keep it extra-fresh – this is a special process unique to Ringtons and we are very proud of that. Now with Victory Tea, tea-lovers with taste all over the world can stock- up on enough teabags to last them for months and benefit from the preferential prices by purchasing directly from us, bypassing the supermarkets completely.

What is your biggest focus for the coming year?

To continue to develop Victory Tea as a brand by looking at new blends to introduce to the range in order to build our growing customer base further. In just six months, we have attracted a different type of consumer because it is bulk buying of a quality product - both families and businesses can save money and order conveniently online. For example, with the Diamond Jubilee fast approaching we are already getting lots of orders for parties and celebrations as they know they are getting premium tea at the snip of the prices at supermarkets.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Sarah Holmes .

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