Deck the Aisles with Brandy and Cognac

Encourage the Splurge

Consumers are primed to spend during the holidays; the trick is to get them to open their wallets in the store. For retailers, that means start early, taking advantage of VAPs and other tools from producers and distributors, refreshing shelves and displays and creating a festive atmosphere in the store. Take advantage of sampling to gain trial and, most importantly, educate and motivate staff to hand-sell.

“Right now we are figuring out what’s going to be on the floor and how to dress it up to look attractive and festive,” Kreston says. He is also deciding about his pricing strategies and printing up shelf talkers rather than relying on hand-written signage. Early on in the season, Kreston’s will run a few one-day sales for customers who are already in the mindset to buy for the holidays. “They can drink their purchases right away or save them for the holidays; wine and spirits never go bad,” he notes.

Beyond the floor displays, a number of brands offer installations (where legal) to help retailers spruce up for the holidays. For example, each year E&J Brandy offers a holiday-focused display piece, Thoukis says. This year it is a fireplace that “flickers” when customers walk by.

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When it comes to gift packs, be sure to offer a range of price points to fit every pocketbook. Not just the fancy bottle of XO, but VSOP and VS, as well. Special services can be a bonus too. Kreston offers free gift wrapping. And Hennessy has extended its engraving program nationally, allowing customers to personalize their Cognac gifts.

“Hand-selling is key,” says Herlofsky at Liquor Boy. Most customers are not used to spending $75-$100 for a bottle of Cognac. “They want to know that they are getting their money’s worth and feel comfortable with their purchase,” he explains. It is also a situation for upselling—if the salesperson can clearly explain the difference between, say, Cognac blends from Grande Champagne versus Borderies.

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“The staff has to be knowledgeable and stores have to make an investment in education,” insists Herlofsky. “You need to make that personal connection, which oftentimes is what keeps customers coming back.”  BD

Thomas Henry Strenk is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with over 20 years experience covering the beverage and restaurant industries. In his small apartment-turned-alchemist-den, he homebrews beer kombucha, and concocts his own bitters and infusions.

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