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Richard Siddle, comment, July 29: Top Merchants prepare for good times

Published:  01 August, 2011

It may be very tentative, but certain parts of the trade are beginning to dust themselves down from the long hibernation, otherwise known as the recession, and prepare themselves for when the rest of the economy wakes up.

It may be very tentative, but certain parts of the trade are beginning to dust themselves down from the long hibernation, otherwise known as the recession, and prepare themselves for when the rest of the economy wakes up.

This was very apparent at the latest Top Merchants seminar held earlier this month at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. We even bravely themed the day around expansion and looked at many interesting ideas merchants are investing in to help them grow in the future.


It was clear from the merchants who spoke on the day that expansion comes in many forms. From opening or taking on new sites, through to making the most of what you have by offering more services and events ? such as themed tastings and dinners ? from your existing store.

What was fascinating to hear was not only the vast array of initiatives merchants use to attract new business, but the large margins they can get from simply putting on a tasting or dinner.

These are also, importantly, low-risk ways to build loyalty among existing customers while potentially bringing in new ones ? and both sets are more likely to spend more in your store when the good times come back.

Merchants spoke of the need to prepare now and be ready when trading conditions improve. It is not by luck that businesses survive and prosper in both good times and bad.
What came through loud and clear was the need for wine companies to increasingly put business skills first. You may have a good nose for the best wine deal, but make sure you know your way around a trading statement, a planning application, a property lease or an employment contract. Running a successful drinks business is as much about understanding red tape as it is the complexity of the Bordelais or Champenois.

The adage survival of the fittest came into play at our Top Merchants seminar this month, see Harpers July 29 issue for more.

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