09 February 2016, 15:13 PM
  • It's not for nothing that renowned drinks brands from across the world clamour to work with Selfridges. Head of wine Terry Threlfull tells us how it's done

“Ask lots of questions”
When it comes to selling alcohol to a customer, it helps to keep it general and keep it positive. You might be really into wine and spirits, but the chance of your customer being as informed as you are is pretty slim. See where your customer is at and gauge the kind of conversation they want to have. If they’re looking for advice, you don’t want them to feel like they’re being talked down to or feel embarrassed because they don’t have the same knowledge as you. We train our staff extensively on working within the range of what the customer wants to spend – we don’t want to abuse their budget, but we want to give them the absolute best product possible. We ask a lot of questions but don’t necessarily talk much ourselves. Working in this way sometimes leads to a once-in-a-lifetime buy from that person, for example a customer came in to buy something for his father who was born in 1955 from that vintage, but we didn’t have anything from that year so I had a look around and found a wine from that vintage which was both inexpensive and a wonderful. I had to buy a full case so sold one to him – he was very happy – then a girl came in to buy a gift for her dad who loved wine but she didn’t know very much. Her brothers had already bought him wines which they were very proud of, and she had a very strict budget of £80. She had a look of terror on her face when she came in, but she left with a big smile on her face as she had a beautiful and unique bottle of wine which was within her budget. It’s those kind of things that make customers want to come back to Selfridges next time they’re looking for a gift, and it’s fabulous to be able to make that happen.

“Make it inviting”
My motto when it comes to displaying drinks is ‘in sight, in mind’ – experts say that shoulder or eye-level is where most of your sales come from, and I think that rings true. When you have a strong feeling about a product or have lots of stock of it, you want to have it in sight. Anything more niche, such as wines which may not be suitable for everyone’s taste or budget, you can feel free to position in a corner which you can direct customers towards. One of the problems within our industry is that it can seem a little intimidating to people – a way to avoid this is to create an open, welcoming space which is as inviting as possible.

“Secure repeat business”
A lot of the marketing we do is about securing repeat customers, and that’s one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give – catalogue your customers and create mailing lists if you can. Especially if you’re in a smaller town or village, as that’s where a lot of your future sales will come from. Some of the bigger shops and chains do it well, but smaller independents can surpass them at this by offering a truly personal service. Having a really wonderful shop window is very important – obviously at Selfridges we have incredible windows! –  as I think a well thought out, inviting shop window can attract customers with very little cost. Specialising in one or two things that make you stand out from your competitors is also key. For example, at Selfridges we focus on exclusives.

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