The Grapevine

Retail Wine Shop Business Tips – Building a Sustainable Business

July 22nd, 2014

Making your wine shop a sustainable enterprise – a business that consistently turns a profit and rewards the hard work you put into it – can sometimes seem like a daunting task. Yet, once you’ve achieved this success, things can sometimes seem so much more effortless, you’ll wonder what the fuss was about. Here are a few of the keys to making it happen. [level-members]

There are four areas you should focus on first:

  • Customer Experience
  • Product Mix
  • Operations

Let’s work back from the bottom of that short list.

Operations may seem like an afterthought. Isn’t that what makes McDonald’s McDonald’s? Well yes, it is. And while you don’t want to be associated with the negatives people often associate with the Golden Arches – namely, mediocre food – the consistency they achieve operationally has a lot to do with their success. Best example: clean restrooms. Good, bad or otherwise, people knew what they were getting when they stopped at a McDonald’s. Clean bathrooms and food the kids would eat.

No need to think in quite such grand terms, but making sure you’re training employees to treat customers with the same high level of care is part of your operations. So, too, is staying on top of product costs, tracking the success of various marketing efforts, etc.

Product Mix
What you sell has an impact on who you attract. It is also a product of your market. A shop in a lower middle class neighborhood can’t sell much first-growth Bordeaux. And a shop in an affluent neighborhood isn’t going to move a lot of Thunderbird.

But within the limits of your market’s basic structure, there’s a lot of room to define who you are by purposefully selecting the products you sell. Sure, you can sell a lot of Yellow Tail in almost markets, but that may undermine your efforts to be known as a shop that focuses on, say, food-friendly wines. That’s not to say you can’t sell the Yellow Tail, but it shouldn’t be the focus of your marketing and it should be the first thing people see when they walk in the shop.

Customer Experience
Speaking of the first thing people see when they walk into your shop, what exactly is it that they see? Is it a stack of empty cartons waiting to go to the dumpster out back? Or is it the worn floor tiles? Hopefully, you’re setting a better tone than that, because your shop’s visual appeal will have an incredible effect on people’s impressions. No surprise there, but it’s worth something that will affect how effective you can be in your interactions. If they’ve already made up their mind that you’re a cut-rate, bargain-bin kind of place, they’re going to be predisposed to thinking negatively of any wine you suggest that they’re not already familiar with. Keeping the shop looking good – and making it feel appropriate to your customers’ expectations – costs money, but it’s a small amount to pay for having people walk into the shop in the right frame of mind.

Don’t forget about well-trained, friendly, knowledgable staff, too. Attentive and friendly beats encyclopedic wine knowledge any day, but staff should at least be familiar with what you stock.

Set your business up with these concepts in mind, and focus on each area every day, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a business that is consistently profitable in good times and bad.