We were shocked to find out that retailers were quick to discontinue our brand if it didn’t move immediately! We thought they would allow a few months for shoppers to get used to seeing it, then they try it, come back and buy it again. We thought shoppers would tell their friends about the new great product they discovered and their friends would buy it. We though 4 -6 months was a reasonable amount of time to allow a new retail brand to gain traction.
We were wrong! Retail buyers all wanted instant sales or they would discontinue the product. Why? Because they had bills to pay! They had to pay all the overhead on the shelf space every day (labor, rent, power, insurance, cleaning, and maintenance) whether or not our brand sold.
They’d say, “We know, pretty much in the first few weeks, whether a brand is going to perform or not.” Their expectations on rapid performance could only be realized if the brand was already popular in their particular store’s location. This meant that any new brand was in grave danger of discontinuance, even if it was ripping up the charts in other locations. This was a big lesson for us. We realized that we had to be a big hit right off the bat in every new location.
Today we warn clients about celebrating prematurely when they get their brands in a new location. This is not cause for celebration. This is cause for caution and vigilance. You can’t be discontinued until you are there. Now that you are there, you can be discontinued – forever!
We advise them to stop everything, send everyone over to the new location, and help make sales happen at once!
Store Personnel. Introduce them to your brand so they can recommend it with confidence. Take the time to make them feel important by pointing out how you depend on them to keep the shelves stocked. Your brand’s performance is based on scans (sales out the front door). If your product is still in the back room, it can’t scan.
Advertise Locally. Since it is local people who will come into the store, they must know your brand (and want to buy it). They must find out about it with flyers, demos at fundraisers and events, signs, or, as we did, by supporting local causes so you can give the community a social reason to buy your brand.
Co-Promote. Try to get the store to do a temporary price reduction to introduce their customers to your brand. Also try to get another popular brand in another category to do a co-promotion where you offer a price reduction on their brand when customers buy your brand.
Instore Demos. Offer product demonstrations and/or tastings of your brand in the new store. Be sure to get the store to order in enough for the demo, then order in again to support the new customers who will return looking for your brand. Ask for floor displays and out-of-category stacks.
Remove Barriers. Hard to believe is the fact that you will have to check the store’s handling of your brand. Is it in stock? Is the price right? Is the reorder tag correct? Is the UPC correct on the scanner? Did they reorder it when they sold out? And so on. Be diplomatic about fixing the errors so you don’t get kicked out of the store for something they did wrong.
We say, “When it comes to brand performance, everybody wants to milk the cow, nobody wants to raise the calf!” If you intend to succeed, be prepared to raise the calf!
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders