Learning to Fly
Imagine that your business virtually overnight had three times more competitors. How would you adapt to that? For every retail liquor licensee in Oklahoma, that is the challenge we all now have in common.
According to the Oklahoma ABLE Commission, the number of Retail Wine Licenses nearly tripled by the end of 2018 after Oklahoma’s liquor laws changed on October 1 of last year. That kind of increase in availability of the most popular wines sold in our market is the cause of a 20-25% decline in wine sales for me and other legacy wine retailers. If you were a customer buying Kendall Jackson Chardonnay, you can now find that product not only here at the Wine Shop and every other liquor store in Edmond, but also in nearly every grocery, pharmacy, convenience store, warehouse club and gas station in town, too. This holds true of many other popular wines that liquor wholesalers mandate for saturation distribution. These aren't the wines that need a lot of explanation or knowledge to sell. They are stacked up, discounted and pretty much sell themselves.
This is presenting some big challenges to determine what our relevance to our customers will be going forward. In short, what kind of a store do our customers want us to be? Or more pertinent perhaps, what kind of a store will they be willing to support?
I have always believed in the value of selection, knowledgeable customer service and competitive pricing. I have also always believed I could compete with any other wine & spirits store in town on those criteria.
But it’s obvious by now that it’s hard to compete with convenience. I can't be where my customers are buying their groceries, I still can't be open on Sunday, and I can't allow underage kids into the store even with their parents.
We are exploring new ways of making the store a unique place that customers will seek out. The new law allows us to carry virtually anything that a grocer can stock so we have added ice for craft cocktails, unique glassware, quality mixers, a wide array of condiments, bar tools, fresh flowers, greeting cards and liquor-filled chocolates. We are also listening to our customers to hear what items they want that are hard to locate locally. We will continue to find unique ways to differentiate ourselves from our competition and reinvent our place in the market.