Perfecting Online Merchandise Sales

Although your taproom may help move the most product when it comes to merchandise sales, many breweries have opted to use an online platform to add non-beer items for sale to help create a further reach to consumers that can’t get in front of an item in person.

3 Daughters Brewing recently made a switch in its online store, going from a Spotify account to working with a company like Grandstand to help facilitate a lot of the backend along with ordering logistics.

​“​​They’re handling all of our merchandise including design, fulfillments, ordering, and the online store,” explained ​​Brian Horne, VP for Sales & Marketing with the Florida brand. ​“Honestly, I could not say enough great things about them. They’re probably one of the best vendors I’ve ever worked with. They do everything, but what’s nice about them is their handling of our fulfillment as well. ​They procure everything, the internal design team does design, then they ship us basically half that we sell ​at the brewery and put the other half online​ and handle the entire fulfillment.

​Based in St. Petersburg, 3 Daughters recently opened a​ ​new taproom and brewery in nearby Clearwater ​and Horne said they “gave them the whole keys.”

​“​Last week, we sold more merchandise in Clearwater than we did in a month in St. Pete​,” he said. “​So it really goes to show what people that know what they’re doing can really help you with.​“

​Horne did admit that if ​they put a lot of effort into it​ internally, it could be successful, but​ he said they realized that ​they want to be brewers, we sell beer​.

“​I don’t want to worry about merch​,” he pointed out. It’s sometimes a sentiment echoed across the country. Merchandise can be helpful in promoting the brewery, but it’s usually not a money maker.​ That said, don’t make it a loss leader either, and keeping good books and tracking inventory while not sitting on product can be helpful in making sales a success.

​Keeping Track

Mother Road has extensive processes for any movement of merchandise whether it be online, in the taproom, or for internal uses. Merchandise Specialist Hannah Bielke handles all of the day-to-day operations in regards to merch for the Flagstaff, Arizona brewery so they feel it’s an added bonus of human eyes on inventory instead of having to rely on solely digital means.

“This provides us with an accurate picture of our inventory numbers and whereabouts at any given moment,” Bielke said. “We take into account both past and current sales data while considering all upcoming brewery and local events when making any merchandise purchasing plans.”

​Mother Road​ recently transitioned to using a Shopify​-​based online sales platform for ​its website.

​“​It’s a straightforward, user-friendly platform that has made it easy to appropriately organize our merchandise while keeping inventories accurate and up-to-date​,” Bielke said. “Whenever possible we try to take advantage of bulk ordering, not only for the financial benefit but also in order to eliminate extra time, labor, and resources spent on multiple reorders of a single item. We’re fortunate enough to have the storage space to accommodate larger shipments which make ordering bulk quantities a possibility for us.”

​Horne​ said 3 Daughter’s Marketing Coordinator handles all of the brand’s inventory, keeping track of what is selling in both locations, and making sure that they are ahead of the reorder process.

“So when we hit a certain par level, we know to reorder, which has been a struggle because every time we go to reorder, the supply chain has been such a mess,” Horne said. “Lead times are so long, but it’s nice, because Grandstand, for instance, called us two weeks ago and said, ‘Hey, listen, there are three big glass makers in the country, and two of them are out of glassware. So if you need glassware, order it now because it’s going to be 8-10 weeks.’

“So we didn’t really need it. But we know that we don’t want to get to that par level down where we’re … out of glassware.”

For Moeller Brew Barn in Ohio, monthly inventory reports and looking to the upcoming season help inform the team what is needed explained Jess Nielsen, Creative Director.

“Bulk ordering has been the best way for us to order core apparel for all taproom locations and our website,” she said. “Smaller runs work well for location-specific apparel, along with seasonal items.”

What ​Sells, What Doesn’t?

Quality tri-blend t-shirts with a simple graphic go over well year-round​, Nielsen said, while in the cooler months, beach-washed crewnecks and quarter zips have been a huge hit​ for Moeller​.

​Although still fairly new, Horne said the Clearwater​ Beach​ location is highly transient​ versus its original home base.

​“​So what’s interesting is seeing the dichotomy of what sells in the transient versus non-transient areas​,” he said. “​In the Clearwater location, it’s by the beach, so ​it’s a lot of beach things that people just forget. Frisbee, footballs​,​ long sleeve shirts​. Even though it’s Florida, people get cold or want to take things back home. ​It’s branded, they want to, they want the name on it. They want to know it’s Clearwater Beach​.

​“​In the St. Pete location. It’s ​much more hats​ and the big things we’ve been selling a lot of are the pint​-​glass​ sized koozies.​ I think that right now is probably our best seller. ​They’re not expensive​ and it’s kind of different fun.​“​

The one surprising ​item Horne admits he was very much against​, ​“​and was proven absolutely wrong, which I love to actually say,​“​​ he said,is ​a line of outrageous and colorful billed hats.

​“They​ look like Paisley, something you put on your grandma’s wall, basically​,” he said. “I don’t know a better way to explain it. And, my God, those sell like hotcakes. Clearly, I’m getting older, and I’m missing the trends on hats, but I was very surprised about that.​“​

​A struggle, he said that​ many breweries including his own have troubles with creating, ordering, and selling holiday-geared items.

​“We ordered a lot for St. Patty’s Day, but you never sell it all out​,” he said in late March​. ​“Then you’re kind of sitting on it for a year to sell it next year.

​“The biggest mistake I see a lot of people do​ …​ they put the year on everything. Well, whatever you don’t sell is basically trash, right? Just keep it general.”​

To Logo or Not to Logo

Bielke noted that over the years ​they have found ​the top sellers always come down to items that prominently feature ​the​ Mother Road logo.

​“​While we like to bring in fresh designs seasonally and give our guests a variety of merchandise items, at the end of the day it seems you just can’t beat a straightforward logo tee​,” she said.

Although it’s not proven yet, Horne said that 3 Daughters is looking to boost sales in non-logoed merch as well.

“The new merchandise, we spent a lot of time designing different designs that just aren’t the logo,” he said. “It’s basically our most popular beers. The beers are on the shirt, but it’s not the can, it’s pictures of beaches.

“The most popular shirt we’re selling in Clearwater right now is a blue long-sleeve T-shirt that has a shark on it with just the words 3 Daughters written into the shark. And that’s our No. 1 seller right now. Our owner was like, ‘I can’t believe people want to buy stuff without the logo.’ But that’s what they want.”

Moving Product

For items that aren’t selling well​, ​Nielsen said look internally first​.​

​“[We] ​ask ourselves if we’ve marketed it well​,” she said. “Creating a social post or taproom display about the item is many times all it takes for the item to move.​“​

​Bielke said if they find a particular product isn’t quite working as hoped​ at Mother Road​, ​they’ll always try to look at it and present it in a new way to pique guests’ interests.

​“​If the product still falls short, we’ll likely lower the price and sell through our remaining quantities in order to bring in a more appealing item or design​,” she said.​

Photo courtesy Moeller Brew Barn

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