Host a Festival

Strengthen Your Community

A successful retail liquor store is not only a place to buy wine, beer or spirits – it can become a community where loyal clientele rub shoulders with engaged staff and one another. The hospitality industry is highly competitive, and while customer service, product knowledge, and a comfortable shopping environment will always contribute to success, a community centered around your store will cultivate a unique identity that helps you stand out.

Building a community is a way to give back to those who support you while investing in the success of your own liquor store. Hosting a festival is an excellent way to foster the growth of your community. A festival can be a single event or a series of happenings organized to showcase a specific theme and your shop. It can be focused around charitable giving, seasonal events or releases, education, or product launches. By having a festival you are not just selling something – you are creating an experience to educate and entertain your customers. This will encourage loyalty and drive repeat business.

Strengthen Your Community

As with any marketing or business building experience, it is critical to know your potential clientele. Who are they and what do they want to do? Each community is unique and will have different things that interest them. By understanding who you want your audience to be, you can design a way to get their attention. If your store has been focused primarily on wine and has a knowledgeable and wine savvy clientele, then a festival on a specific wine-related theme, such as indigenous grapes or biodynamic wines, would intrigue your customers and create interest. If you are primarily beer and spirits-focused, and have built your business around a community of beer lovers or spirit enthusiasts, a wine festival may not the best way to create interest and have an engaged community.

Willow Park Wines and Spirits plays host to festivals throughout the year with a very specific focus. With wine-related themes ranging from the intricacies of Brunello di Montalcino to Australian and sparkling wine, staff recognizes they have a community interested in increasing their wine knowledge. By continually offering interesting reasons for them to spend time in the store and unique ways to taste and learn about wine, they are fostering the growth and engagement of their community and creating customers who spend and buy more.

Have a Plan

Once you know who your audience is, it is time to figure out what they want and how to get their attention, while making sure you have your own clear set of goals. Every store and every event will have different goals. It is important to determine what yours are, to make sure your festival accomplishes what you want. There are a number of things that a well-executed festival can accomplish. What is most important to your establishment?

·         Sell more

·         Increase foot traffic

·         Build your database

·         Generate attention and brand recognition

·         Give back to a charity

·         Increase learning opportunities

·         Generate content for blogs, website and social media

·         Build relationships with customers and suppliers

·         Encourage staff engagement and education

Vines of Riverbend Wine Merchants is the sole store sponsor of the Edmonton Whisky Festival. This is a tasting event offered yearly in support of the MS Society. While known as a wine boutique, this festival has allowed Vines to build their brand to include whisky lovers. This in turn leads to an expanded customer base and higher sales. The opportunity to give back by supporting the MS Society was as important as increasing sales. The Whisky Festival grows every year and is a strong tool to generate and reinforce recognition in their community.

Build It and They Will Come

Now that the audience is recognized and the goals of the festival are determined, it is time to make it happen! If this is the first time your store is organizing a festival, it is better to start small and grow with each subsequent event. It’s a great way to generate attention and create interest in the store, but you want to be sure to execute it well so it’s a success.

Most importantly, your festival must be interesting. Festivals can generate attention and bring new customers through your doors, but it’s essential to give the attendees a reason to stay interested, shop around and spend – and to come back.

Do you want to tie in a charitable element? In an industry that balances business interests and social responsibility, contributing to a charity is a rewarding way to give back.

Lastly, engaged and educated staff will help build an engaged and educated clientele. When the staff is passionate about a topic they know well, your customers will probably become interested and excited too.

Festivals are a unique way to connect with customers and grow your community. By creating one of your own, or by working with a charity and being the sole store sponsor with the exclusive opportunity to sell the products involved, you are able to generate goodwill and build loyalty. This in turn will drive business and build recognition of your store, leading to higher sales. In this highly competitive market, hosting a festival is another tool you can use to help build a successful liquor retailing business.