September 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
The only real competitive edge that private liquor retailers have in BC is their product selection. The absolute risky-est position to be in is having a photo-copy of a government store in terms of selection. As a private liquor retailer I have found that the only way for me to best maintain my market share, or to make it grow, is by walking the fine line between listed and spec products.
By having about 40% (and growing) of the products on our shelf that are only available at our stores or in other private retailers, allows me to 1) clearly distinguishes me from government stores, 2) have more control of my margins while maintaining price confidence with the customer, 3) Allows me to focus on customer service in the form of product knowledge, 4) means I can truly say we are professionals.
Why do you choose the lawyer, doctor, dentist, accountant, personal trainer, hair stylist, plumber, etc. that you do? Part of the answer comes in your belief that they are qualified professionals that have spent hundreds of hours being an expert at solving problems that you have in their area of expertise. Chances are you have found them by referral or by meeting them. They conveyed an air of professionalism and confidence that you have come to trust and that trust has always been vindicated. For us in private liquor retail it is no different. What kind of confidence will your customer have in you if your selection says ‘I don’t know anything about this beer/wine/spirit and I don’t care, I just want you to buy it. All I know is that someone told me it sold well”? You need to be their ‘doctor’ of wine, beer and spirits. Your selection should say “in your case I would I’m going to prescribe this wine over that one. That one will work for you to but I think that for today this is the best choice.”
Customer loyalty comes from developing personal relationships and sharing your customers day to day successes and failures, feelings of confidence and defeat, feeling great or suffering from a cold. By saying “I know just the perfect comfort food wine for you, you can’t find it everywhere, but I loved its depth of flavour and boldness of body” you are telling your customer that you care about them. The old saying “I don’t care what you know until I know that you care” is so true when comes to developing lifetime customers in our business. Your selection is your customers silent witness to how much you care about them.
There are hundreds if not thousands of items available right now that offer 40% and 50% margins, are priced for the average joe and blow the doors off the leading brands in terms of quality. It takes work and dedication to find them, but the work and time pays off 10 fold.
Someone I admire once told me to focus on the critical few and forget the trivial many. When your selection says you care, you can then spend most of your time focussed on customer service. This means staff education, product knowledge and engagement, developing better hiring practices, improving the flow of the store, keeping the store clean and having truthful and informative signs on products throughout the store. This is one of the ‘critical few’ and is perhaps the one that delivers the most tangible and intangible positive results in your business.
Start to pare down the ‘me too’ items and replace them with ‘I love this and will stand behind it’ items and your business will be far more secure and fun to operate… no matter what happens with the Liquor Review.