Establishing a Niche Market

Look for a Unique Hook

Finding a group of people to attract is all about identifying niches that haven’t been discovered or fully developed by competitors. Some clients are looking for a specific collection, and establishments that sell hard-to-find spirits, wine, and craft beer are perfect for setting up a niche market. Special deals and frequent buyer programs are abundant because customers like saving money, but more thought needs to go into developing a niche market.

Providing a product that attracts a particular group of customers, or offering discounts to special people, means increased profits as potential clients are targeted. By providing a unique shopping experience, you’ll also drive repeat business.

A Prehistoric Experience

We all like to be entertained, whether it’s something we find amusing or fascinating, and if entertained before buying, a relaxed customer might spend more. Finding ways to amuse customers before, during, or after they buy products is something Liquor Planet in Langford has nailed. Owners, Diana and Ron Cheeke, have traveled around the world and visited some amazing liquor stores. Three years ago they decided to transform their family-operated Log House Liquor Store, and their love of dinosaurs played a big part in creating a prehistoric theme. Diana says their customers enjoy the fun experience of being greeted by a tyrannosaurus rex when they walk through the doors, sneaking past a sabre toothed tiger guarding the stock, and ducking a pterodactyl soaring overhead.

In addition to creating an enjoyable shopping atmosphere, Diana wanted to honour heroes from the military, police, firefighters, and paramedics. Liquor Planet has attracted a worthy niche market by offering a 5% discount to emergency services personnel.

Take Time to Laugh

Another business that’s entertaining customers is Hecklers Bar and Grill–Victoria’s place for live comedy. Nick Tusche says they started out as a sports bar, but realized they needed more customers and kept an eye on what other pubs were offering, which was mainly live music. No pub had comedy acts on its lineup, and nine years ago Hecklers laughed its way into filling this niche. Every Friday and Saturday night at 9 pm, the bar transforms into a comedy club featuring rising stars. It’s become wildly popular, usually selling out (there’s a cover charge), requiring patrons to reserve a table in advance to avoid disappointment. Once the tables are reserved or filled, they don’t allow any more patrons to come inside, and literally turn customers away at the door, that’s how popular they’ve become. On comedy nights the host is usually a local comedian. A guest spot is next with an up-and-comer on the comedy circuit, and the headliner is a professional touring comedian.

Whisky Flights

Victoria’s Bard & Banker has snatched up the market on whisky aficionados and serves up more than 90 brands of whisky, including 60 Scotch, 13 Canadian, 7 Irish, 10 American, 3 Japanese, and one from India. There are four different Whisky Flights on the menu, each with four half ounce pours. The Bard Flight, also known as the International Flight, features Sortilege Maple (Canadian), Jameson Black Barrel (Irish), Makers Mark (American), and Nikka From the Barrel (Japanese). Before it became a public house, the building housed a bank, and one of its notable employees was the Bard of the Yukon, Robert Service–best known for his poem The Cremation of Sam McGee (1907). To honour him, the Bard and Banker offers the Sam McGee Flight for customers who like a more smoky or peaty whisky: Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, and Highland Park. Also on the menu is the MacPherson Flight or the Taste of Scotland flight featuring Dalwhinnie, Glenlivet, Auchentoshan, and Bowmore. The Vault Flight is their Premium Flight and the pours are Glenlivet, Highland Park, Macallan Ruby, and Glenfiddich.

Tea and Pickles

A family-owned and operated business with an Irish flair, Toby’s Liquor Store in North Vancouver sells a lot of Irish Whisky not carried in BC Liquor Stores. Besides selling alcohol, Toby’s is thinking outside the jar, and sells individually packaged pickles–an unusual novelty item that has become a huge impulse purchase for customers who want to party with a big pickle. This store is also known for the Toby’s house blend herbal tea (red Rooibos, Greek mountain sage, Uganda vanilla, and cardamom), sold in 50 gram vials for customers to brew at home. The teas’ benefits are said to help with headaches and soothing the digestive system, which is perfect for the morning after. Located near the intersection of Main and Mountain Highway, not too far from the Second Narrows Bridge, Toby’s has attracted a niche demographic of industrial workers who stop at this convenient location on their way home. Toby’s also owns a pub, about two blocks away from the store, cooking up genuine, authentic Irish cuisine. Both businesses attract Irish ex-pats and customers who are fans of anything from Ireland, and also fans of pickles.

Develop your Own Niche

Price promotions are fun, but they’re too varied by products that change monthly along with the customers who buy those products. This isn’t developing a niche. It’s just drawing in customers who like buying products on sale. Creating a niche market in an industry where everyone claims to offer the lowest prices, the largest selection, and the best customer service is old news for customers. How about developing a dog-friendly liquor store? Handing out dog biscuits and giving a discount to everyone who shows up with a pooch is a niche that hasn’t caught hold yet. Scuba divers are always hungry when they emerge from the ocean, and pubs could snatch up this niche group by offering a discount for everyone who shows their SCUBA certification card. How about a discount for members of Toastmasters or the Red Hat Society? The latter will be easy to spot! Does your bar or liquor store have a group of special people they’d like to honour? If you’re passionate about creating a niche market, you’ll attract regulars who’ll keep coming back.