Could cocktails pave the way to higher merchandise sales?

Articles
June 18, 2009

Could cocktails pave the way to higher merchandise sales?

In supermarkets, food sales are the obvious end game. In a growing array of clothing boutiques, high-end department stores, hair and nail salons and other specialty shops, food and alcohol are today’s customer appeasers—the courtesies that proprietors extend with the hopes of lengthening a store visit, increasing trip frequency, or softening up a prospect to an up-sell of products or services. The more a person is in a store, the more he or she will buy, is a retail truism. In today’s difficult retail environment, more store operators are offering snacks and beverages—sometimes even cocktails or meals—to draw traffic and satisfy the shoppers who do come through their doors. This blended notion of food, drinks, amenities and retailing may have gotten its start with the coffee bars and fax machines set up inside the men’s store of Manhattan’s Bergdorf Goodman across from the famed Plaza Hotel nearly 20 years ago. Today, its competitor Saks offers complimentary snacks and beverages near its men’s fitting rooms—as well as light foods for ladies using its Fifth Avenue Club personal shopping services, and serves champagne and even lunch during select designer events. The concept of fusing (often free, depending on the store) consumables to merchandise sales isn’t exclusively the province of high-end stores. The New York Post reports that the Beauty Bar in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and three other cities offers a $10 manicure and martini special. A flower shop and bar called Sycamore in Brooklyn sells a beer and a bouquet for $10. And East Village (lower Manhattan) has several shops that mix designer clothes with alcohol for a distinctive shopping experience, sometimes in unconventional late evening hours. Even in upstate Albany, near the university campus, is an opportunity for men to sit in comfortable chairs, watch sports on large-screen TVs and hoist beers while having their hair styled (though some patrons might still prefer a conversation with the stylist).

In supermarkets, food sales are the obvious end game.  In a growing array of clothing boutiques, high-end department stores, hair and nail salons and other specialty shops, food and alcohol are today’s customer appeasers—the courtesies that proprietors extend with the hopes of lengthening a store visit, increasing trip frequency, or softening up a prospect to an up-sell of products or services.

The more a person is in a store, the more he or she will buy, is a retail truism. In today’s difficult retail environment, more store operators are offering snacks and beverages—sometimes even cocktails or meals—to draw traffic and satisfy the shoppers who do come through their doors.

This blended notion of food, drinks, amenities and retailing may have gotten its start with the coffee bars and fax machines set up inside the men’s store of Manhattan’s Bergdorf Goodman across from the famed Plaza Hotel nearly 20 years ago. Today, its competitor Saks offers complimentary snacks and beverages near its men’s fitting rooms—as well as light foods for ladies using its Fifth Avenue Club personal shopping services, and serves champagne and even lunch during select designer events.

The concept of fusing (often free, depending on the store) consumables to merchandise sales isn’t exclusively the province of high-end stores. The New York Post reports that the Beauty Bar in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and three other cities offers a $10 manicure and martini special.  A flower shop and bar called Sycamore in Brooklyn sells a beer and a bouquet for $10. And East Village (lower Manhattan) has several shops that mix designer clothes with alcohol for a distinctive shopping experience, sometimes in unconventional late evening hours. Even in upstate Albany, near the university campus, is an opportunity for men to sit in comfortable chairs, watch sports on large-screen TVs and hoist beers while having their hair styled (though some patrons might still prefer a conversation with the stylist).

In our opinion at SupermarketGuru.com, this is a select strategy that retailers should consider applying only after the utmost scrutiny for appropriateness. But done with precise targeting to the right customers in the right markets, stores have the potential to achieve unprecedented levels of customer comfort—and give people the kind of emotional bonding experience they’ll appreciate.