In just a matter of weeks, the nature of the wine business in the US—and the world in general—has drastically changed. Restaurants and bars have been shut down, wineries have closed their tasting rooms, and wine retailers have had to rethink the way they do business. Some have closed altogether, at least for now.
In some states, including Oregon and New York, wine stores are considered “essential business,” but in Pennsylvania—where the state controls all sale of spirits, wine, and liquor—stores were closed on March 17. In states where wine is available in grocery stores, sales are up 27% according to Rob McMillan, Executive VP of Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division. But many wineries are not in wide distribution. The average winery’s tasting room sales are 28.2% of total revenue. Couple that with their other on-premise business, and most will see a decrease in sales of 40–60%.
However, in a well-worth–watching video interview with wine writer W. Blake Gray, McMillan made the point that people don’t stop drinking during a crisis—even during ones as extreme as the Great Depression (or Prohibition, for that matter). The challenge is getting your wine to the consumer. For more on that, read Rob’s latest blog here.
So what can you do to stem the tide? I’ve identified strategies for immediate relief, what you can do in your “free time,” and how to use this time to plan strategically for the future.
How can you get some cash in the door now?
1) Investigate SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans and USDA support.
2) Shore up your wine club—they are your most loyal customers and a steady stream of income. Show them some love.
a) Follow the 80/20 rule—call your top 20 members with offers to wow them!
b) Contact your other members with offers, too. These days, everyone is offering free shipping and delivery. What else can you do that is special?
c) Run the numbers—new sign-ups, dropouts, average time before dropping out (not average membership tenure). What can you learn from these numbers?
d) Survey your members and former members. Capiche can help with this. Reengaging former members usually more than pays for the survey.
- You can identify what makes your club special, have members rate events, learn members’ likes/dislikes, and gather suggestions for new offerings. You can even find out what music they prefer in the tasting room—it may be different than you think!
- Invite former members back with a WOW offer. For example, one winery is offering new club members a 50% discount on the day of joining.
3) For all your contacts, create a series of cool events—use Zoom or another online conferencing tool (and this can go on for now and forever—especially for remote wine club members, who are often neglected). People have been getting creative with remote wine-tasting events, talks with the winemaker, and even cooking classes!
Since you’re not busy serving guests in the tasting room or calling on your restaurant accounts, you or your team will have some extra time for tasks that are often overlooked.
1) Update all your current online listings (e.g., Oregon Wine Board, individual wine trails, Google Business, TripAdvisor).
2) Make sure your wines are on sites like CellarTracker, Vivino, and Wine Searcher. Read more here.
3) Engage your staff in online training (Wine Business Education is a great program—contact me for a 10% discount code).
4) Review and optimize your finances—Wine Business Education also offers an excellent suite of financial calculators to help you fine-tune with:
- Winery Cost of Goods Workbook
- Wine Pricing Calculator
- Vineyard P&L and Cash Flow Workbook
- Tasting Room Profitability Calculator
- Marketing, Sales and Portfolio Management Workbook
- Blending Profitability Workbook
Prepare for the Future
Now’s the time to do some planning for the time when we’re all back in business.
1) Create a three-year strategic plan. This can be done remotely with Zoom. Capiche is working with wineries and associations on this very successfully. Let us help you get your plan together. We get specific with:
2) Develop a crisis communication plan. See my recent blog post for more details. This can also be conducted remotely, and Capiche would be happy to help.
3) Tune up your website. Is your content up-to-date? Do you have a section where the media can easily access pertinent information and images? Are your wine tech sheets available? Is it secure? ADA-compliant? Check out our post on 11 Ways to Bring Your Web Presence to the Next Level for more specifics.
- Research USDA and SBA loans
- Shore up your wine club
- Engage your customers
- Update business listings
- Populate wine review/purchase sites
- Offer training to your staff
- Review and optimize your finances
- Create a strategic plan
- Develop a crisis communication plan
- Improve your website
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