The Control States Best Practices Awards 2015 Winners

Best Retail Innovation

Driving Sales with Creative Displays

By Jeremy Nedelka

The Idaho State Liquor Division, which owns and operates retail locations throughout the state, is always looking for ways to improve customers’ experience and improve profitability (and thereby revenue for the state). In 2014, the agency began installing centralized displays called “pods” in its highest-revenue stores, as a way to make new products more visible to shoppers. Soon, the project expanded in scope and an innovative display program was born.

“We made some changes for the right reasons,” says Deputy Director of Procurement and Retail Operations, Howard Wasserstein. “We wanted to increase our percentage of female consumers, emphasize premium products and provide drink solutions for customers.”

Each goal has now been incorporated into the pods, which have grown from an initial test market of 12 stores to 45, and which are changed every two months. Each store contains two pods, with a total of eight sides. Each side contains a different set of products, designed to complement each other.

“We found that just putting new products on the pods with no synergy didn’t work at all,” Wasserstein says. “It’s better to be focused around a category, brand or promotion around consumption. Many times we’ll create a solution selling kit, which means consumers can get a free or reduced price bag, cup or mug with their purchase of two to three products that go into a cocktail recipe.” The ISLD has seen great success around a Tito’s Moscow Mule kit featured earlier this year.

In addition to showcasing new and premium products, many pods throughout the year have seasonal themes, which attract customers eager to see what the new display will be each time they visit the store. Two years in, the program has exceeded expectations.

“We wanted to raise the modernization of our stores, improve sales and get people to drink better and more responsibly,” Wasserstein says. “All of the display brands outperform what they do in stores without pods because they’re much more visible and shoppers have an added reason to buy them.” Brands featured in the new displays have seen a 10.7% sales lift in stores with the pod program, versus those stores that haven’t been added yet.

Buy-in from store employees was tepid at first. “Change is difficult, but we mandated this from the central office and explained why we started the program at the beginning,” Wasserstein says. “We allocated distribution of the products and created all the
signage and shelving internally, so everything would arrive at the store from the warehouse in a kit. We even provided a map showing what each side of the pod should look like during each time
period.”

As the pods program has caught on, buy-in isn’t a concern. “Initially our stores looked at these as just another display, but now we’re almost two years in and getting better with our signage and selections each quarter,” Wasserstein says. “The employees are seeing more consumer takeaways, and that increases their enthusiasm.”

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