Fight the economy like a Marine
“Improvise, adapt and overcome” is an unofficial mantra the U.S. Marine Corps has maintained since their inception. Simple yet pragmatic, the adage has many applications in today’s dubious economy including the wine industry. Those who adjust their selling and marketing strategies best can persevere while we all navigate the waters of this recession.
So, what is a retailer or restaurant to do when faced with a consumer base that has restricted their spending habits? Learn who the audience is and placate to them with offerings they can justify.
It is worth noting that during downward cycles of the economy, alcohol consumption increases. Perhaps fueled by bouts of depression, fear or anxiety, people often seek an outlet. This can be perceived as a “positive” to the wine industry in that there is a “want” and “need” for a product, unlike expendable items such as high end jewelry. A “bunker mentality” can also develop as evidenced by past recessions. In an effort to reduce costs, the population will remain at home forsaking pricey nights out yet, seek some solace with a bottle. Wine is also increasingly becoming a part of the American diet. The health benefits and food compliment it provides is a confident indicator to sellers. Clearly, cost affects these purchases but with some creativity one can even move their expensive inventory by suggesting some options to their customers.
For example, those in the retail sector have the opportunity to target the folks who aren’t going out. Advertising wines at moderate price points for everyday consumption would be a natural place to begin. Including these brands in an email campaign, floor display or with simple point-of-sale materials conveys to the buyer that you are looking out for them. “Recession friendly” mixed cases are another option that could help your volume and margins as everyone is looking for a good value these days. What about that high end inventory that isn’t moving as it used to? Suggest the idea of bringing the restaurant experience at home. A proper meal can still be had with initiative and a cookbook thus justifying that pricier bottle you’re trying to unload. Regional dishes paired with a related wine may enable the customer to try something new and different. One could go so far as to create recipes cross marketed with a certain wine on display much like culinary retail shops do with their cookware.
Those in the restaurant world have options too as people will eventually need to decamp and have some fun. Like the movies or a sporting event, dining out is a form of escapism. If you can cultivate that emotion along with a clever wine list, active sales can result. Showing a well diversified by-the-glass program is a start. Rather than relying solely on showcase wines, offering value oriented brands at lower margins can perhaps encourage repeat glasses. Conversely, featuring some trophy brands normally reserved for the list into the b-t-g program might actually help move some inventory. Similar to a floor display, this may signal to the buyer that you are offering them a rare opportunity to sample something great. Another option would be to include some 375 ml’s. Sure, they can be difficult to deal with, but might be a way to offer more variety. Retailers have sales, why can’t restaurants? If you have some brands that you need to move and won’t compromise your list, advertise 20% off and see what results. Weekly specials can be rather helpful too when people are most likely not dining out. Give them an incentive to come in on a random Monday – Thursday with a promotion of bottle discounts for a four top, or the time tested happy hour.
The more you understand your clientele, the better prepared you’ll be. Adjustments may result in terms of your selling practices, but the personal attention you provide will surely be acknowledged. Be creative and remember that wine is still a desired good no matter what the Dow Jones says.