We are approaching the all-important fourth-quarter sales season where retailers have the opportunity to harvest cash with successful depletions leading up to and through the all-important holiday season. What makes some retailers shine in the holidays and others kick themselves because sales “surprisingly” floundered? My top seven tips should be helpful to ensure you maximize fall sales that meet or exceed your expectations:
1) Knowledgeable and Approachable Staff
The importance of well-trained staff with both wine and spirit knowledge is crucial. Staff must also be approachable and personable. Being conversant on the various growing regions, varietal, technical aspects and taste profiles are expected by your customers.
The top retailers have their staff visit prominent growing regions and invest in their training. And as new categories like whiskey become hot they need to follow the trends and expand their expertise.
These are the folks on the front lines, and they can offer owners tremendous feedback as to what consumers are looking for and whether you have the right product mix.
2) Merchandising and Displays
It is so important to have product merchandised in a manner to create excitement. I can’t tell you how many stores have sparse displays or the wrong product mix in the most accessible spots.
You should create a dynamic consumer experience with fresh point-of-sale materials and well-stocked displays. The store should certainly prioritize high-margin items in the best spots, but there needs to be a good mix with wines that resonate with consumers. Displays need to look fresh and interesting and tell a compelling story about why the consumer should purchase the product.
3) Matching Season and Customers
By the time October rolls around, the store should be seasonally adjusted to highlight the more-appealing and faster-moving products. In the summer sauvignon blanc and rosé should be stacked out so consumers have easy access to their go-to pool wines. Whiskey is certainly a year-round beverage, but it becomes even more compelling in the colder weather. And Champagne, domestic sparklers, prosecco and cava are naturals for the holidays.
While you need a nice product mix, always invest more in products that will move to match the demographics of your market. In more affluent communities, you should find more creative ways to trade-up your consumers. Wines that hit price points at $9.99, $14.99 or $19.99 will have a significantly better sell through than when you miss price points by a dollar or two.
4) Shelf Talkers and Press
Years ago, Robert Parker and Wine Spectator dominated the press, but now there are loads of publications and prominent bloggers that can give the consumer insight into purchasing guidance. Consumers obtain buying advice from a variety of sources before making a purchase decision. As bottles rise in price, consumers feel more comfortable considering accolades and tasting notes.
5) Pricing Discounts
Consumers get very excited about savings and appreciate discounts being passed on. Many prominent retailers also have loyalty programs or club member cards that create excitement. A club-member price brings consumers back and gives you an edge on your competition.
Products that are discounted should be highlighted so consumers can see the savings prominently. Use your economies of scale to make purchases that feature deep discounts so you can move some volume. Case discounts are also compelling to consumers.
6) In-store Tastings and Events
Events and tastings help draw consumers to your store and generate sales. Retailers with economies of scale successfully sample consumers on more profitable wines. Some even comparison-taste customers on national brands that are more expensive to demonstrate they are offering a less expensive but superior product. And bringing in celebrities, sommeliers or trade reps for tastings can help create excitement and drive traffic.
7) Customer Service
Depending on the state, there are a variety of customer service initiatives that can make a difference to making your holiday season successful.
Some retailers offer home delivery services for events that can drive big time sales. Consumers love the convenience of at-home delivery, especially if they know you are delivering delicious product that will make their event. Other retailers host wine dinners at local restaurants featuring their special wines with a knowledgeable spokesperson who can help you generate orders from the tasting.
If the economy continues its upward momentum, there is every reason to believe this should be a strong fall for wine and spirit sales. Not every retail establishment will be a winner but the innovative and entrepreneurial retailer should see the fruits of their labor pay dividends.
As chairman of the former Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Jonathan Newman was the nation’s largest wine buyer and brought a number of popular innovations to bear, including the Chairman’s Selection program and opening of local stores for Sunday sales. Follow him on Twitter at @NewmanWine and visit his website: newmanwine.com. Read his recent piece, Talking Sonoma Vintages with Bryan Davison, Winemaker at Michel-Schlumberge.