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Written by Jim Brumm
These days, companies that are marketing to a younger crowd often employ something called “street teams.” These teams are made up of groups of young people in the company’s target demographic that are paid to take a product out on the streets or any place where their customers are, and show it, use it, and talk about it to others in an attempt to stir up interest and sales.
Wineries can take advantage of this same tactic to help promote their brands to potential new customers. It’s as simple as effectively offering branded merchandise to visitors in tasting rooms.
“Once the wine is drunk and the bottle recycled, your customers could easily forget you,” said Vanessa Topper of TopNest Designs in Northern California. “If they take home a decanter or corkscrew with your winery’s name on it, chances are they’ll remember you.”
Most tasting rooms today sell merchandise along with their wine. These items for sale include things like refrigerator magnets and coasters on the low end, to crystal decanters and wine racks on the high end. Having retail merchandise in the tasting room gives wineries another way to generate income and it makes the room more interesting for visitors. But the one thing experts agree on is that to be effective over the long run in building brand loyalty, everything sold in a tasting room should carry the winery’s name and logo.
“You need to build your brand,” said Elliot Mackey, vice president of marketing at The Wine Appreciation Guild. “You want the customer to leave with something that has your winery’s name on it. A branded corkscrew is the best because it keeps your brand name out there forever. Every time they use it they’ll think of you.”
For many, wine drinking is less than just popping open a bottle and more of a ritual. There is the storage and display of the bottle, the fancy corkscrew that opens it, the decanter, and the swirling of the wine in exquisite stemware. Some items not directly involved in wine consumption that can be part of the ritual as well can be towels, trays, coasters, bottle holders, aerators, wine totes, and the list goes on.
To improve the chance of your winery becoming part of your customer’s wine drinking ritual, it’s a good idea to supply nice versions of all the things that accompany that ritual—things tastefully emblazoned with your winery’s name and logo.
“People like picking up souvenirs to take home with them,” said Chris Murphy of Chris’s Stuff, makers of specialty wine gifts.. “Merchandise adds to sales. Customers, women in particular, enjoy browsing in between tastings. All this adds to the bottom line.”
A typical day of wine tasting will expose one to several different ways of displaying non-wine merchandise in a tasting room. Nearly all wineries sell clothing—hats and shirts—with their winery’s name on them. For some, the non-wine merchandise seems added as an afterthought; for others, their non-wine merchandise in a big part of the overall experience. For the latter, the sales and profits of these items can add to the overall bottom line in a big way.
Opinions vary as to the benchmark sales expectation of non-wine items, but in Chris Murphy’s experience, he believes that 20 to 30 percent of total sales is a reasonable goal. “If your tasting room is small, this can actually be an advantage, as non-wine items can be displayed up close to the tasting room bar where customers can see them while they taste and visit.” There is so much competition today in the wine world that anything a winery can do to help build and capture customer loyalty or brand recognition gives them a leg up.
Elliot Mackey suggests making sure that as much non-wine merchandise as possible is displayed in a way that allows people to handle it. “Don’t keep it behind the counter,” he said. “Keep it at eye level, and keep it interesting. Displays that have more than one level break things up visually and draw the eye.”
There are actually lots of non-wine items that you can’t customize but that still do well in tasting rooms. From cookbooks to maps, specialty food items to those popular wine charms, to whimsical candle holders, foil cutters and more—a healthy tasting room retail atmosphere offers plenty of opportunities for impulse purchases. Although these items may not carry your name, they help build sales and increase the bottom line.
Another great way to use your customized merchandise is to give them away as thank-you gifts to existing wine club members along with their wine shipments, or for those customers who are just joining your wine club in the tasting room. They reinforce your customers’ decision to do business with you, and they keep your name in front of them and their friends wherever they are. Your customers then become your own personal “street team,” talking you up to their friends and family.
Here, according to our WIN merchandise experts, are the current, hottest sellers in tasting rooms: