Steven Brown: How the backfitting of your bar is your greatest drinks’ marketing asset

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 19, 2011 16:02

Merchandising is the art of silent selling, it is the ability to display your most profitable products to their best advantage and it is about making money.

Now if any of you are averse to the latter then read no further!

We already know how difficult it can be to convert a golfer into a food and beverage customer, but why do the majority of clubs I visit make it so difficult for customers to spend money!

How many of the following are on display on your back fitting: tills; the ‘waste book’; music centres; handbags; invoices / credit notes; straws; mobile phones; spirit measures; calculators; glasses; pint pots with pens in; CDs; keys on a hook; car keys; raffle tickets; Tippex; trophies; pretty coloured bottles on the top shelf that never sell; postcards from abroad; scissors; ice buckets; credit card machines and staplers?

How many tills have you sold this week? If it’s on the back fitting it’s in your shop window, on display and therefore for sale, yes? Absolutely not.

Forgive me if I sound a little facetious but it never ceases to amaze me that when an outlet is not maximising its sales it never maximises its merchandising display in an attempt to help matters. We don’t sell tills so why are we displaying them? I ask this questions of my clients when invited by them to visit and review their marketing and merchandising activity during one of my ‘Business Whealth Checks’.

The answers I get are: convenient for the staff; security reasons; nowhere else to put it; what difference does it make?; and it’s always been like that.

Merchandising is not about ‘making it convenient for the staff’, it is about making the best use of a highly visible area to generate more profit and greater volume sales. Of course we must not lose sight of the fact that the bar servery is also a workplace and must take account of the presence of staff and their ability to work efficiently!

Sight is the most important of the senses when discussing merchandising. You can’t taste a product until you’ve seen that it is available (either by signage or seeing the physical product).

So how well would you rate your product (and service) display? Would your backfitting encourage additional, or more profitable, sales? By improving your product display you can increase your chance of improved profitability by up to a massive 30 per cent! The most important thing is this: You cannot build a new bar or restaurant extension today but in the next 24 hours you can get your staff to attack the back fitting and give it the wow factor. Here’s how to take your customers breath away:

Product matching; it is imperative to match your product range to your customer profile. I would hazard a guess that the three most popular products sold in your establishment (assuming the food you sell is more than a bacon buttie) are draught lager, wines and spirits. The first product needs little or no support as it is well merchandised by the suppliers with lighted cowls, ice cold fonts and in-your-face pump heads. The sales of these products are also in decline! The wines, and to a lesser degree, the spirits, do need promoting and the good news is that they (especially wines) are on the increase.

Golf clubs will always have draught lagers available, which has been developed over the years due to customers’ demands and the changes of suppliers. Wines need to be supported to assist their continued growth, so how are you doing that? Do you have a specific wine display? Do you have a ‘wine wall’ (a bulk display of sexy new and old world wines?) Do you have a wine champion (someone with the product knowledge to advise the customer with confidence?) Or have you simply got three reds, two whites and a rosé all in the fridge in case we need them!  Wine sales in golf clubs are way ahead of wine sales in the high street and can be, if in the function market, as high as hotels and wine bars, and, here’s the good news, offer a 20 to 30 per cent higher gross margin than your biggest volume seller draught lager and beer.

Wine matches the typical customer profile of golf clubs and it is not out of place to expand your offer, your range and the area allocated to its display.

You may recall from previous articles on stock results that your business mix will be highlighted in those reports, showing what percentage of your total sale wine represents. Does your display area represent that mix?  In other words if your wine sales make 25 per cent of your wet mix do you allocate 25 to 30 per cent of your back fitting display to this growth product? Or is the till in the way?

Merchandising objectives; Before you begin to merchandise your back fitting you need to have an objective. Here are a few legitimate merchandising objectives.

1. To increase volume sales on products that we make a good cash margin on.

2. To increase volume sales on products we get a great (and rising) discount on.

3. To move slow-selling stock before it goes out of date.

4. To de-list a product completely.

5. To introduce a brand new product.

Every one of these is legitimate. Decide what your objective is before you dismantle the back fitting.  The good news is that after setting up your display area to achieve your objectives you can actually measure the success or otherwise of your efforts over a period of time.

Here is a brief index of modern day merchandising methods:

Hot spots; areas of high visibility generally at eye level.  Here’s where you display those profitable or promotable products.  Is your till in the centre of your back fitting and therefore in the hottest spot!

Cold spots; areas of low visibility (for example, bottom shelf on the left hand side of the bottled beer shelves where you display the pale ale and brown ale!)

Impact display; a bulk display of one product alone (such as wine) to the exclusion of all other products to maximise its impact.

Speciality items; do you sell something a little different, unique even? If so, put it in the hot spot.

Impulse items; do you sell something that customers might not normally buy but could be encouraged to do so (for example, a bottle of champagne for a hole in one). Have you got a display of ‘shampoo’ for that once-in-a-lifetime moment?

Demand items; these are the products that every outlet must have, apparently, (such as brown ale, pale ale, strega, crème de menthe and snowballs.) Place them in the cold spots.

Distress purchases; a must have product of the moment (for example, ‘a double whiskey please I’ve just scored a 14 on the par three’). Display your house double in a hot spot.

Here are some topical tips on merchandising: Carry out a merchandising audit of your outlet (constantly); remove all non-profit making items from the ‘shop window’ (tills, clocks); use a planned approach to displays (planagrams); establish your own merchandising objective for each display; make the message match the customer profile; always ensure the back fitting is sparklingly clean; identify and fully utilise your hot spots; identify your demand items;            double up the display on the best selling, most profitable lines; rationalise product ranges; place premium brands next to standard ones; group all categories of products together; use larger bottles for spirits; band spirits in groups of four. If not possible then colour code (dark on left – through to light on right – the ‘rainbow effect’); display bottled products horizontally on shelves rather than vertically, except where space is limited; use high impact displays; remember to use colours and shapes for your displays (pyramid displays carry the most impact); link products that have an association, (such as gin with tonics); group impulse items near to tills for maximum profiling; change the back fitting regularly to regenerate customer interest; take bottles off the top shelf and put on an optic (results show increases of 76 per cent on Malibu, 168 per cent on Archers and 267 per cent on Baileys); ensure the display area is appropriately lit (use spotlights on back fittings); remember eye level is buy level; know which products are your most profitable and give them the best position; think differently, create points of interest, excite people, be visually stunning and dare to be different with your displays; and make them memorable – make customers buy something.

So what should you do with that till on display? Take it off the back fitting and place it in the front of the counter, facing the customer, where it is secure.  Figures prove that sales rise by three per cent when sales staff face the customer to ask them for these all important extra sales.

If you cannot, due to space or lack of finance, move the till to the bar servery, then reduce its impact by re-siting it on the back fitting! The most ideal place is to the left. Why? Because 91 per cent of people, having focussed on the hot spot area, then look to the right!

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 19, 2011 16:02
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