Keeping it Local

2016 Control State Best Practices Winner: Best Retail Innovation

Idaho State Liquor Division

Microdistilleries are on the rise, and retailers are feeling the positive and negative effects of this trend. While more distilleries offer a greater variety of products and the potential for higher sales, they also present challenges for states in terms of managing larger inventories and finding space to display additional products in stores.

Such is the case in Idaho, where an explosion of new Bourbons during the past two years has taken the state by storm. Struggling to place new products in its state-run stores, the Idaho State Liquor Division created an innovative local products display to prominently showcase these items.

“Consumers kept asking us, ‘Where are the local products?’” recalls Howard Wasserstein, Deputy Director for Procurement, Distribution and Retail Operations with the ISLD. “We needed a way to meet this growing demand and also make it easy for consumers to identify the local products they’re looking for. This new display has really satisfied the customers.”

In spring 2016, the division distributed the distinctive displays to 55 of its 66 stores (due to its large size, the display won’t fit well in retailers with a small amount of floor space). Each display unit is 48 inches wide and 24 inches deep, with three shelves and enough space to hold 12 to 16 cases of regional products, which Wasserstein defines as products originating from Idaho or any of its bordering states: Washington, Utah, Oregon, Montana or Wyoming.

The displays generally feature between 30 and 40 local whiskeys. Colorful signage atop the display makes it easy for customers to easily identify the contents of the unit. Additionally, the side of each display features a map of Idaho illustrating where each of the featured distilleries is located across the state. The displays are mounted on wheels, making it easy to reposition them throughout the store.

Although all the displays initially launched featuring the same batch of products, the division has since given individual stores more freedom to mix and match different items, so no two store displays necessarily feature the same products. Wasserstein reports that the response to the new displays has been overwhelmingly positive from consumers and retailers alike.

“We’ve always been committed to carrying local products in our stores, but from our perspective we would manage and display them in a logistical way, which didn’t necessarily make sense from a customer standpoint,” he says. “People don’t want to have to hunt and peck all over the store to find a certain kind of product. With our new display, they don’t have to.”

The division plans to enhance the new whiskey display model in the future by adding detailed tasting notes about each product, incorporating product brochures that consumers can take with them to learn more about local products, and even advertising upcoming tastings with some of the microdistilleries. Wasserstein hopes to have a version of the display in all the division’s stores in the near future.

Melissa Niksic is a freelance writer and marketing communications strategist from Chicago, IL. Her work has appeared in Chicago’s Daily Herald newspaper, Time Out Chicago, Suburban Life newspapers, and various magazines. She is also the author of several children’s books. Follow her @MelissaNiksic.

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