The 2018 Retailers of the Year Part 2

Employee Owned and Operated

By Melissa Sherwin

Unlimited space equals unlimited potential. Thats the philosophy behind The Party Source, which touts itself as Bellevue, Kentuckys one-stop shop for all its customers beverage and event needs. As the nations largest alcohol beverage store, the 100,000-square-foot location features more than 60,000 square feet of retail space, along with a second-story warehouse. As a result, its hard to find a product that The Party Source doesnt have in stock at any given time.

We carry virtually everything interesting available in the state of Kentucky, says Jon Stiles, President of The Party Source. In addition to alcoholic beverages, we also have a large party and paper department, which makes up about 30% of the store.

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The Party Source became an employee-owned company when it was purchased through an ESOP in 2014. Alcoholic beverages account for approximately 80% of store sales, with spirits being the top-selling category. Additionally, customers can find a variety of meats, cheeses, other gourmet foods, cigars, snacks and all types of party supplies (theres even a gigantic balloon and gift basket counter). The store regularly solicits feedback from customers and incorporates their suggestions into unique product offerings, such as $50 beer advent calendars that were available during the holiday season last year. The calendars were suggested by a customer, and the entire stock sold out in less than three days.

The store does nearly $2 million of business per year in online sales, and its website offers a real-time live inventory featuring approximately 70% of available products. Customers can shop online and pick up their orders in-store, saving them time. The Party Source recently began offering delivery options and operates its own delivery system, along with partnering with Drizly.

Recent enhancements have been made to the stores wine department, like installing a new 400-square-foot, temperature-controlled wine room featuring sleek wooden racks and UV product protection. Customers enjoy browsing through the selections and Stiles reports that high-end wine sales have increased as a result. Sixteen new Napa Technology tasting stations were also installed in the past year, and the wine shelving system was replaced with lower units to increase product visibility and accessibility. The Party Source also rolled out a successful private label wine program, which currently accounts for 10% of total wine sales and complements the robust private-barrel program the store has offered for years.

Whats the secret to The Party Sources continued success? Stiles credits his employees for most of it.

This is a 25-year-old store, and we have some cashiers who have been here 20 years or more, he says. Sixty percent of our employees have been with us for more than five years. People who have been shopping here a long time know the people who work in our store, and our employees know our customers by name. Im proud of the fact that this is such a big store, but its not an impersonal store.

Although the store does very little advertising, it maintains a comprehensive email marketing program and also is well-known for its informational videos featuring product reviews and other tutorials. The videos are produced in-house and are pushed out via The Party Sources Facebook and YouTube channels.

Weve seen our engagement go through the roof, Stiles says. These videos are fun and are a unique value-add that we can offer our customers. Its just another example of the way our customer service is unmatched and is central to everything we do.

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