The number one question I get asked from suppliers and brand owners right now is: how I do I get more retail placements?
But if you’re a wine or spirits producer the first question you really need to be asking yourself is: how do I get more retail depletions?
As a booze professional with a decent rolodex, I can tell you that convincing my retail friends to pick up a new brand is the easy part of distribution. Incentivizing your sales reps to place more products is often a waste of time for that reason. Anyone can call in a favor when they need it. It’s getting retailers to buy the second and third case that’s difficult.
Influencing the modern retail consumer is just as hard. We’re well past the age of brand loyalty at this point, so the adventurous boutique consumer will rarely return to buy the same bottle more than once. With so many new options to try, and so many new brands coming to market, getting a customer to buy again and again is a real challenge.
Retailers agree. I spent yesterday traveling between five of the best wine and spirits stores in the LA area, asking them the same question over and over: can you name me one new brand that continues to sell, while building customer loyalty along the way?
…. (crickets) ….
“Angel’s Envy has actually picked up for us,” one store owner told me as we chatted on the sales floor, “but that’s partly because they allow their stock to run out from time to time, which in turn builds demand.” Beyond the Bacardi-owned Bourbon sensation, there were no other examples of new wines or spirits that had built and sustained momentum in 2019 in the eyes of my retail partners. “Eagle Rare still sells well for us, as does Willett,” another buyer told me when we discussed American whiskey trends; “but obviously those brands have sold well for years and years.”
Is it possible to drive retail sales in today’s ADHD marketplace, other than by becoming a cult icon to a legion of whiskey collectors? Certainly, but it has little to do with the number of accounts you’re working with, and everything to do with the quality of those accounts. In my experience, consistency comes from personal relationships and credibility. You can target key influencers and hot markets all you like, but unless your brand sells itself it’s nearly impossible to make any headway. Your retail partners must like you, trust you, and respect you before you’ll win their support—and that support is what moves cases.
Having hundreds of accounts might sound like the ideal, but they’re worthless if the product doesn’t move off the shelf. You can’t be everywhere at once, and the digital technology that allows you to reach more consumers is being bombarded with 10,000 other people just like you doing the exact same thing, thus getting more from your best accounts is key. Just remember: retailers size up suppliers like first dates. They’re asking themselves: is this person just interested in a one night stand, or are they going to call me next week to go out again?
If you’re only after retail placements, you’re probably the former and you’re off to the next account as fast as you can put your pants back on. That type of superficiality isn’t going to win you many friends. Commitment is much more important to building a relationship, and relationships are what build retail depletions. I know sales reps that have spent their entire careers in a handful of stores because they can do more business in those locations than 100+ corner stores and supermarkets.
Great retailers are consistent. New brands pop up every day, consumer trends change like fashion, but a great relationship with a great account is your best bet for continued success.