- July 12, 2017
“I thought I had it all figured out,” a beer distributor said to a long-time customer while carrying a case of beer to her car. “I can sell beer in all different packages – even growlers. But now other licensees sell beer and some sell wine. How do I compete?”
Sound familiar? You built a thriving beer business in Pennsylvania playing by the rules. Yes, the rules [laws] have changed, but so have a lot of other things. Customers don’t just buy beer; they are looking for a retail experience. Beer-only drinkers are harder to find. Many customers who purchase beer often make decisions based on information they read on their mobile phones, while walking up and down the aisles. Then occasionally someone walks into your store, looks around, but leaves without buying anything.
“Stores across the country face the same challenges, but my heart goes out to the folks in Pennsylvania because the retail landscape there has changed dramatically in a very short period of time,” says Bump Williams, founder of BWC Company. Williams is well known in the beer, wine & spirits world where he has made his mark helping retailers grow sales. He begins by evaluating their current status and goals. Then he gives his clients actionable recommendations, which invariably improve their bottom line.
“It’s a lot to absorb,” says Williams about the situation in Pennsylvania. “Some guys have even admitted that they feel lost and don’t know what to do, or where to begin. If you want to stay in business, I tell them to take a deep breath and think about taking small bites out of the apple. There are ALWAYS things you can do, even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, to show the customer that your store is where they want to buy beer. What you can’t do is NOTHING.”
Bob Sokel, Off-Premise Chain and Space Planning Manager for Origlio Beverage agrees with Williams’s approach. “When times change, you have to change the way you think about your business. There’s lots of opportunity to grow by selling single-serve and six-packs along with cases. By taking small bites out of the apple, as Williams suggests, you can begin to make changes that will make you more successful.”
“I usually begin by asking my clients a few questions,” Williams says. “What do you think are your biggest challenges? Are you willing to make some changes to address those challenges? What are the kinds of things you have done in the past that have improved sales – like samplings or ‘Meet the Brewer’ events? What makes you different from the competition?”
While these are important things to consider, both Williams and Sokel realize that there are only so many hours in a day. When asked to pick just one thing (that doesn’t cost money) you could do to improve sales, without hesitation both men said shelf sets. “Sokel and his Origlio Beverage co-workers have studied how products should be organized to maximize sales. Ask them what should go where,” Williams advised.
Have a strategy in mind before stocking the shelves and you will make it easier for your customer to buy more beer. A shelf set template is available in the Retailer Resources section of our website.”
“Hey, you’re not in grade school anymore,” Williams quipped. “Take a look at the plan-o-grams. For once it’s OK to copy off of your neighbor’s test paper!”