Cashing in on
By SUZANNE J. BROWN
When it comes to store panache,
fashion statements are created from the outside - in. Does your store have the ambiance of a dusty flea market stall or an enticing, colorful décor with products strategically selected and arranged? Whatever is defined in a store’s mission statement is reflected in its brand, style, fashion and innovation. Presented here, are a variety of products and accoutrements that express a store’s personality. Strategy in execution provides the distinctive brand that consumers identify. Whether it’s the latest selection of coffee and teaware that helped build mall-based Barnie’s, or innovative games like Cranium sold at Starbucks, the selection of accessories, gadgets, and food are an extension of your retail personality.
Since specialty retailers comprise many entrepreneurial owners, some of whom have switched professions from music to accounting, merchants find a new direction for proven talent.
While it was a major in music that brought Coffee Masters founders, Jan and Jim Rich together initially, it was Prince Matchabelli that trained Jan in how to be an artist…cosmetic, that is. Jan, who is currently vice president, marketing, Coffee Masters, has always been responsible for purchasing accessories and allied products of coffee. And it’s her background in training counter personnel in merchandising Prince Matchabelli cosmetics that has continued to guide those decisions. “Successful retailing is an art,” said Jan. Although its form may not start with a blank canvas or unblushed face, there has to be an overall plan when selecting products for a store. A real turn-off, one that can’t be tolerated in today’s competitive market, is to walk into a store where boxes of tea kettles and coffeemakers are stacked on top of each other, gathering dust. Besides tending to the daily dusting, Rich suggests creating interesting venues along the wall space and counters that group products together. “Colorful and eye-catching products are easy to merchandise and don’t require any special sales training,” noted Rich. For years, Coffee Masters has been selling Perfect Potful packets, which continues to be one of the most successful items because of timely introduction of new flavors and packaging to create “newness” and meet the demands of customers. “We also sell known brand items such as Ashby teas and Cocoa Amore,” said Rich. “Our Ashby Teapots and packaged teabags offer consumers an impulse gift item that merchandises well around the check-out counter at holiday time,” she said. Rich believes that all retail products help tell a retailer’s beverage story and provides a visual interest that reaps repeat sales.
Jeff Vojta, owner, Stockton Graham coffee roasters in Raleigh, N.C., concurs with Rich. “Impulse items are a must”, said Vojta, a former CPA, turned coffee manufacturer.
The smaller, bite sized cookies; candies and chocolates can be important profit generators for the store owner. Rather than the change going back into the consumers’ pocket, it will be used to buy these items. Sound like a bean counter’s advice? Vojta pointed out the bite-sized biscotti are exceptionally attractive because it is more unusual, good any time of year and generally lower in calories and fat than candy. The more successful merchants will avoid cluttering up the counter in order to draw more attention to the impulse items, while rotating them to keep it interesting and fresh looking.
With the establishment of the new C (consumer) segment of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), retail accessories will play an even greater role, creating more demand for products that meet the needs of serious consumers.
Home roasting, for example, offers consumers an opportunity to try their craft in creating their own blend. Consequently, retailers increase sales by offering green, unroasted beans as part of the package, something department stores are ill equipped to merchandise. Certainly, home roasting companions well with the Slow Cook movement. Consumers interested in home roasting might also be eager to try some of the new scone, muffin and biscotti mixes. Granted, these mixes are not from scratch as would be nixed by those following slow cooking, but not everybody wants to be s-l-o-w. In fact, some of us prefer “buy and serve”. If your store doesn’t have an oven to bake pre-made frozen products, there’s good news.
A new confection discovered at the Fancy Food Show in June is from The Sweetery in Anderson, South Carolina offers excellent quality, variety and clever packaging. Called Couple Cakes, these delicious little cakes for two are perfect partners for either coffee or tea. Be forewarned, however, when serving these cakes to prospective significant others, make certain your intentions are long term. The texture of a moist pound cake, these bun-shaped confections are so impressive that you will be stuck for the rest of your life if you’re not careful whom you’re serving. In three delectable choices, Couple Cakes come in chocolate candy, cinnamon and butter pecan. Perfect for two-four people, cakes have a shelf life of ten days, or may be bought fresh and frozen at home for three-six months. For tea-lovers, there are tea breads that come in strawberry, zucchini and sweet potato.
Tea, with all its popularity, offers a potful of products and merchandising opportunities. Chai, in any form, is really hot. In combination with a book, or placed in an elegant bamboo box, chai mix makes a fun gift. Consumers want to know about teas and author, Diana Rosen’s clever books on the topic teach consumers how to make gifts from tea, how to make homemade chai and learn about health benefits of green and black teas. At a retail price of approximately $16.95, books offer a value price point and comfortable size for gifts. The Book of Green Tea, Chair: The Spice Tea of India and Steeped in Tea. All are from Storey Books. Honeybush, herbals and mate might offer medicinal benefits and the latest elixir is Kombucha tea, a product with a taste that is somewhere between beer and a carbonated beverage.
With all the international publicity on teas’ health benefits, merchants need only to place a selection within eye contact. Here’s a really innovative, high quality product marketed specially to women. It’s Revolution Teas two new flavor packages of five teas. One flavor contains new trendy teas like Honeybush and Chai while the other package contains traditional favorites including Earl Grey and English Breakfast. In addition to making an upscale, high fashion statement, each of the five teas in each packet are wrapped in individual boxes the shape of a triple-size sugar cube. Inside, the see-thru mesh bag shows what the tea looks like and provides easy transport. An alternative to offering someone a pack of gum, any tea lover would enjoy having these teas that enable an excellent cup no matter where… as long as there is boiling water.
On the subject of clever tea gadgets, MacNab’s Premium Teas in Boothbay, Maine, has developed a tea product they are calling “Tea Cache”. According to Fran Browne, proprietor, the Tea Cache was created in response to needs of employees Laurie Cartier, manager and Nancy Hilton, tea representative. In a wallet-style hand embroidered purse, there are two each of three favorite MacNab’s Premium Teas packaged in tea pouches (like a teabag, opened at one end to add your own tea) and ready to place in a cup or mug whenever craving a good cup of tea. The starter kit includes two filled pouches each of black, oolong, and green teas, an instruction card and extra tea pouches. They retail for $12.95 and Browne reports they’re having an excellent response in the tearoom. At the counter, pouches are placed in a teacup shaped container along where tea is packed for customers.
Branded products are a trigger for customers who can’t make up their minds, but recognize a name. At least Vojta thinks so. He has observed a new trend with products that have been packaged and successfully marketed to foodservice channels are being re-packaged and formulated for retail stores. For example, Caffe D’Amore has added to their popular Frappe Freeze line and Crunch Coffee lines with single serve packets and 13-ounce cans. Oregon Chai has expanded its line of powder versions to include single serve packets for home or office. Concentrates are growing in popularity too. Oregon Chai and Tazo are two well-known brands selling concentrates to consumers.
Another method of creating more brand awareness is to co-brand in partnership with allied companies. Tully’s Coffee, an international chain, based in Seattle, has just announced two partnerships; one with Dean & Deluca, a gourmet food chain based in New York, and with The Boeing Company, headquartered in Seattle. “Snacks on the Run” is a Dean & Deluca category that consists of items such as nuts, candies, dried fruits, chocolate bars, assorted confections and gift packages. A partnership such as this increases brand awareness in regions where each brand dominates. According to Jason Hamilton, Richmond Public Relations, Dean & Deluca will place racks containing an assortment of “Snacks on the Run” in all 99 of Tully’s domestic locations. Wondering how the rack would be positioned and merchandised, Hamilton explained the configuration would depend on the store design. While there is no standard positioning required, products may be placed near point of purchase (POP), or next to food items in a glass case.
The other co-branding venture, with The Boeing Company, is the creation of a signature coffee called “Boeing Blend.” The new blend is being featured at many of the Boeing offices in the Pacific Northwest and is also available to thousands of Boeing employees. In a market saturated with name brands like Starbucks and Seattle Coffee Company, this partnership provides a message of stability, reliability and mutual respect.
Whether you’re a retailer located in a mall, trying to compete with department stores selling similar products, or a coffee and tea shop located in the ritziest part of town, accessories must adhere to a store’s area. In Venice, Italy, Caffe Florian, the oldest coffee shop still operating in its original building, which, in my opinion, is also the most elegant, sophisticated and upscale retail coffee store in the world. Situated in one of the most romantic European settings, customers may sip an espresso, watch the gondolas and listen to the Caffe Florian orchestra, creating lasting memories of a lifetime. From the silk signature Hermes-look scarves designed with the motifs of Caffe Florian rooms, to elegant silk ribbon packaging of coffees, teas and chocolates, every detail, product, service and presentation connotes the highest and most elegant standards of operation.
The Caffe Florian experience touches all senses, including smell. Not just the delightfully anticipated pots of espresso, but with a line of aromatherapy that doubles as body fragrance. On that topic, accessories that may or may not work for merchants are products that include coffee or tea as an ingredient. Depending on the merchant’s style, candles, body lotions, bath gels and branded fragrance Bulgari may or may not be considerations.
As with any business, its success depends on its owner and management. Even the most creative display vignette or product won’t sell without real, live personality. Developing loyal customers really relies on customer service as well as quality products.
Sampling products and demonstrating how to use them provide hands-on participation from both the merchant and buyer. With the new consumer members of SCAA, merchants have more opportunities to offer on-site classes with tastings, history seminars and entertaining ideas. With so many new gadgets, accessories and confections, only the entrepreneurial coffee and tea merchants will have the talents and expertise required to educate customers.
Suzanne J. Brown is owner of Brown Communications LLC; a marketing firm focused on the global coffee tea and food industries. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, she can be reached at email@example.com.
Tea & Coffee - October/November, 2003
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