Wednesday, December 16, 2009
THE WHEELIN' AND THE DEALIN'
I am often plagued by tsunamis of self-doubt. (The word “wave” just didn’t drive the point home far enough in my mind.) I could give you a thousand reasons why, but suffice it to say, that dirty bastard just won’t leave me alone sometimes. We make for interesting bedfellows, self-doubt and I, especially during the holidays, where around here, in the wacky world of wine retail, you need to stay sharp, and focused.
This time of year, there is a multitude of buying opportunities for retailers here in Kentucky. It’s not like our neighbor to the North (Ohio for those of you not staring at a map right now), which is what is known in this business as a “control” state. [Note: A control state is where the state maintains a mandatory minimum markup from the wholesale price, effectively keeping every retailer in that state at the same price point, regardless of the volume they do.] In Kentucky, the more you buy, the lower you CAN go in price. Many people opt to take the extra margin, but not to blow our own horn, we play things a little closer to the edge.
So as I surf through the clearance items being lobbed at me, and various large deals for this and for that, I find myself a bit drained, and a bit vexed by my boss as he called me to tell me he was remerchandising our Fort Thomas store. At first, I was upset – I spend a lot of time and effort putting floor displays together, dreaming about how I will lay the floor out each month – and his idea of what has name recognition and my idea seem at odds sometimes. Yet I took a minute, remembered the April Fool’s joke our illustrious Kentucky legislatures stuck us with this year (our new sales tax on wine and spirits) and realized it is all about price point.
My quandary with pricing is that, when I started here nearly 8 years ago, my mission was clear: make this place a multi-dimensional wine & spirits store. We already had the low prices, I had to come in, train the staff, and make the store bigger, better and more esoteric – kind of like creating an adult candy store. While I succeeded for all intensive purposes, my work will always be “in progress” – never really finished. However, the focus has in many ways, had to revert back to price as our primary feature due to the perceived diminishment of price advantage with Ohio.
I have talked about it before, dozens of times since Governor Beshear signed into law the third level of taxation on wine and spirits, and it won’t be my last, certainly. From a glass-half-full perspective, at least I have been given a new challenge: find great deals for our customers and attract new customers with even crazier deals, making the drive across the bridges worth every cent.
Which delivers me back to the whole buying frenzy – distributors are blowing up my email and cell phone with this deal or that, as I am sure they are doing with my competitors – hey, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and I would be extremely delusional to believe I am the only one getting all the phone calls. The wine business is not and can never be a monogamous thing; wholesalers aren’t, retailers aren’t and even the consumers aren’t (you know you shop at more than one store, right?). I accept that. Just makes me work a little harder. I can’t speak for my competitors but, I know my kung fu is strong. Sometimes.