Starting from Scratch
By Annelise Kelly
In 1983, the collapse of the savings and loan industry in Texas left engineer Vithal Patel jobless. “My parents bought the first business they could, without any experience in liquor,” says their son Purav Patel, now general manager of four stores (with two more to open this year). Three decades later, Inc Magazine included Village Liquor on the 2017 list of fastest growing private U.S. companies.
What does Patel view as the key factor to his company’s success? “Knowing your market: We’re neighborhood stores. While the business follows a general theme, each store operates a little differently. We found success because we got to know our customer base really well.”
A newly implemented loyalty program is proving effective. “Our number-one driving factor is releases of limited edition bottles and short runs, which create a pinch for retailers,” he says. “Instead of resorting to secondary pricing, “our highest spenders get first crack at these exclusive products,” as well as access to events and tastings.
Village’s email newsletter, launched about two years ago, also helps him know the market. The sign-up form asks customers to check their interests, from craft beer to fine wine to specific spirits. “The data helps us,” Patel says. “We can track who is opening which letters: the wine guy, the bourbon guy.” The newsletter introduces weekly flash sales (a recent low-production Cabernet was discounted 46%) encouraging customers to forward the newsletter to non-subscribers, building the customer base with new traffic.
By Maura Keller
Maximizing each customer’s shopping experience is at the core of Liquor Hutch, which was founded in 1946 in Hutchinson, Minnesota. According to Candice Woods, manager of Liquor Hutch, each and every decision made is based on how it affects their customers.
“From staff training and product knowledge development to the high priority placed on product selection and special events, we aim to give our customers the best possible shopping experience,” Woods says. “The store was remodeled and expanded in 2005 to enhance this experience with an organized, easy-to-shop layout including wide aisles and beautiful décor. Most importantly, our staff takes great pride in their work and is always friendly and willing to help.”
During the last 12 months, Liquor Hutch has increased its social media presence and started using a database system to improve its event and special/new item promotion activities.
“As a governmental enterprise fund, we have an extensive budget process that accounts for all revenues and expenses,” Woods says. “Some of the important metrics in this process are gross and net profit goals, labor to sales percentages and inventory turns.” These items, along with advertising, shipping, credit card and other expenses are reviewed with the full-time staff at the store’s monthly meeting.
Supporting the local community is paramount and the Liquor Hutch boasts that the business’ single biggest accomplishment from the past 12 months is providing the store’s highest contribution ever to the City of Hutchinson—$500,000 was transferred to be used to support city services.
“Without this transfer, city residents would realize a 10% increase in their tax levy,” Woods says. “It’s an honor to have the many efforts of our staff acknowledged. We’re proud to be a municipal liquor operation, to serve the citizens of Hutchinson and to have our contribution to our city recognized.”