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Cocktail Culture-Retailers Leverage At-Home Bar Trend To Boost Sales

While the bar cart was a popular icon of the 1950’s and 1960s, it has reemerged as a statement-making staple in consumer homes in the last few decades, thanks to the resurgence of entertaining at home.

Add to this the thrill of stocking and styling one’s home bar cart (or any at-home bar set-up) with all the necessary accoutrements and ingredients, and sharing those results with friends or on social media, and the bar cart has become a celebrity in its own right. However, for many consumers, how to begin stocking their bar cart can leave them puzzled and often seeking guidance. This is where their local independent gourmet housewares store can step in.

“People are drawn to that old-fashioned look when it comes to items for their bar carts, as well as pieces that photograph well. They work hard to make it look good and are excited to show it off,” said Jamie Butler, owner, The Butler’s Pantry in Escalon, CA.

By stocking and merchandising a healthy mix of classic and modern must-have tools for the bar — be it to open and preserve wine, mix up cocktails or serve homemade craft beer — gourmet store owners can serve as a mentor in the art of cocktailing, while also boosting their bottom line.

“I recently started to bring in more cocktail goods and barware, as a result of this renewed interest, and it’s been doing well. I noticed an uptick in sales during the fourth quarter and my customers who are looking to elevate their at-home experience are certainly wanting more of it,” she said.

With that, Butler noted she has curated a selection of goods from familiar and newfound vendors that she is working with for the first time. For her, what’s most appealing are goods that have that nod to old-school cocktail culture, as well as items with a bit of whimsy.

“For me, cocktail glasses that have an old-school feel do really well, as do my assortment of copper accessories from True Brands. Another strong seller for us are white ceramic pitchers from Mud Pie that have simple, cute sayings such as Margarita and Bloody Mary. Customers are really drawn to those,” she said.

Across the country, Ginger Cobl, owner of The Cupboard, in Decatur, AL, also noted that the popularity of this cocktail vibe for the home is hot in her area.

“I’m seeing a renewed interest in vintage cocktails. I am stocking some great cocktail books to cater to that need in order to support this interest and provide customers with further inspiration and knowledge,” she said.

Having such accessories on hand, such as a cocktail book, makes for a great way to start a conversation with customers, she noted, and by creating this sort of dialogue and an in-store experience store owners open the possibility of not only making a sale but also crafting a relationship with a new customer for life.

Making The Merch Pop

And while cross-merchandising is not necessarily a new concept, it has evolved into an important one in the current retail climate. As store owners, especially those in the independent channel, continue to clamor for a customer’s often hard-to-grab attention, cultivating an eye-popping display that showcases just how a consumer can use a particular bar tool or wine accessory, especially while entertaining, can make for a positive influence on sales.

“It absolutely helps,” said Leah Hill, owner of Washington D.C.-based Hill’s Kitchen. “I have a section that is all cocktails but also what we call a ‘cocktail tableau’ with glasses, mixing glasses, tools, some mixers, cocktail books and accessories like stainless steel straws. It gives the customer inspiration on how to incorporate the goods at home, but, since it is located right across from my register, it also is influences impulse purchasing.”

For that reason, Cobl also focuses on cross-merchandising across bar, wine and other accessories and additions.

“I do try and display glassware, barware, mixes, and such together to make things easy for customers. This also helps to turn a one-item purchase into a multiple item purchase. For this reason, I don’t stock any kits, so accessories work best for me,” she said.

When it comes to her top sellers, Cobl said that must-have tools such as cocktail spoons, ice scoops and double jiggers from Sertodo Copper are popular, as is Peugeot stemware.

Hill agreed with the cross-merchandising tactic and also steers clear of kits because her clientele are seemingly more knowledgeable and curious about elevating their experience. She said they come in shopping for specialty items and other products that work better in their homes.

“Cocktail mixing glasses from True Brands and the CraftHouse line from Fortessa have been very popular for me. I’ve noticed my customers are looking for ways to up the cocktail game and paying attention to what should be shaken and what should be stirred. In addition, I am conscious to carry an assortment of colors and finishes of other items, such as jiggers, because it gives them the option to personalize their choice,” she said.

Another reason she stays clear of kits? Space.

“Nobody has the space in my world here in D.C. My customers want what they want and nothing more. So maybe they will buy one shaker but then buy a different length bar spoon to fit their storage space. I like that my customers can choose what they like,” she said.

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