Creative Strategies for Liquor Retailers

Tips from Retailing Experts

In the competitive world of liquor retailing, managers always need to look at ways to do something better than the store down the road. Carefully consider every aspect of your operation to see what improvements can be made.

The following suggestions were offered during a panel discussion at the BC Liquor Conference.

Exterior Signage -If your signage hasn’t been updated for a while, it’s probably time to refresh it. This includes roadside signs, sandwich boards, and posters hanging in your windows. Be sure it’s all eye-catching, clean and in good repair.

Lighting – Women in particular are very concerned about their safety in the evening, so ensure your parking lot is well lit and your entrance is inviting. According to Mike Olson, Vice President, Overwaitea Food Group, you should look at what makes you uncomfortable as well as comfortable.

Inviting Atmosphere – The store should have an attractive, inviting entrance. A seasonal display will grab people’s attention as soon as they enter the store. Be sure that aisles are clean and uncluttered. Don’t forget to dust shelves and replace burnt out light bulbs. This may sound basic, but it’s astounding how many stores don’t bother with these small details.

Displays – “Develop a prominent display with a higher mark-up item that is a unique product,” suggests Rebecca Hardin, Vice President, Rising Tide Consultants. “Make it creative, keep it clean and well-stocked.” She recommends changing the display every six weeks to keep it fresh. Get staff excited about the promotion and you will see the results in sales. Use the expertise of your suppliers to assist with merchandising in the store.

Indoor Signage – Customers should be able to quickly locate their favourite spirit or liqueur and easily navigate around your store. Country signs can help to differentiate wine regions. Shelf signage could include pairing notes, specials, and staff picks. People have limited time and knowledge, so this information will help them shop.

Recruiting Staff – Take time in the hiring process to recruit the best people you can. Panel interviewing is helpful since you can discover how the person fits in with the team. You will also get a number of people’s perceptions about the new recruit. Conduct second and third interviews to ensure you hire the right person. Olson warns, “The most powerful asset and the highest risk is the people who work for you.”

Training Staff – Ensure all your employees are well trained and provide an added-value experience for your customers. Can they recommend the best wine to pair with roast pork or a seafood medley? Do they know the latest seasonal craft beer offered by your local craft brewery?

Troy Bilodeau, Director of Operations, Berezan Hospitality Group, says, “Do whatever it takes to make the customer happy and have them come back.” The Berezan Hospitality Group started a program with their employees called a ‘Random Act of Kindness’ and it’s working very well.

In-store Marketing – Flyers and marketing initiatives should set you apart from your competition. Don’t focus on promoting the same brands that your competitor is offering. Olson advises, “Millennials want immediate communication, so provide relevant offers on their phones.”

Continually stock new products since this can drive 2-3% of business growth

Product Mix – Negotiate with agents and suppliers to provide you with special products that customers can’t purchase elsewhere. In BC, showcase wholesale products that aren’t carried by the government-run stores. Continually stock new products since this can drive 2-3% of business growth according to Olson.

Have a good understanding of who your customer is and be sure you’re bringing in the products they want. Olson says, “Do informal research and then build a plan on how to deliver value to your customer.” Ask questions like: Are we carrying the right mix of products? Is your experience good?

Ken Beattie, Executive Director, BC Craft Brewers Guild, suggests that craft beers have a good profit margin. Since there are 120 breweries in 60 communities across BC, it should be easy to find a local brewer in your neighbourhood. Keep a good selection of seasonal brews to satisfy demand from millennials.

There are also over 300 BC wineries with new wineries coming into the market each year, so it’s easy to get a unique selection of wines.

Don’t forget craft distilleries and cideries as well since these will add to a diverse selection of craft products. Hyper-localism is an important new trend, particularly with the I-generation coming down the road.

Cross Promotions – Conduct cross promotions with your pub or a local restaurant and other businesses around you. Bilodeau says, ‘If neighbouring businesses are successful, you will be.”

Loyalty Program – Run a point reward program to incentivize patrons to return. This will also give you a database to market to in the future.

Delivery Service – An effective delivery program can be important for business development and can offer a unique competitive advantage.

Tastings and Events – In addition to providing value-added experiences for your customers, these events can provide a new source of revenue for your store. Reach out to your local suppliers. If you can get the owner of a local business pouring their products, it’s going to offer your clients a strong and memorable experience.

Take a close look at your operation and see how the above ideas can help your store maximize profitability.