T he 2007 SOLTrack study from HIM - which works with retailers and suppliers to grow category sales based on moment-of-truth customer feedback - interviewed 2,500 customers across more than 150 branches of Threshers, Bargain Booze, Wine Cellar and Oddbins.
Customer satisfaction ratings are high - more than eight out of 10 across all criteria, including friendly service, fast service, product range, promotions, availability and value-for-money, and ratings continue to grow year on year.
People who shop at off-licences are very loyal to the ir store - these shoppers buy half of their entire alcohol purchases from the one main preferred off-licence. Three quarters say their off-licence is their main source of alcohol purchases.
So, with seemingly happy customers, how do off-licences attract new ones? With only 12 per cent of the UK population using an off-licence in a typical week ( HIM Sector Track study), the first question retailers and their supplier partners must ask is who they are not attracting.
Off-licences as an industry are not attracting more women now than they were a few years ago.
Only 13 per cent of off-licence shoppers are "up-market" - AB social classification - compared with 26 per cent UK average. Only 7 per cent of shoppers are over 65 years of age.
So should off-licences target more women, more up market customers and older shoppers? They seem like a good first step ... providing the industry knows what is likely to appeal to these target consumer groups.
To say women don't buy beer (or men don't buy confectionery) is very wide of the mark when you compare the purchases made by both sexes. Women spend almost as much per trip and visit their off-licence 2.5 times per week on average.
Availability is key
Product availability has become the number one priority for shoppers in this channel.
With only 2 per cent of shoppers saying they failed to buy an intended item this year, we believe the answer is more to do with accessibility and visibility than empty shelves, acknowledging that shoppers will often be quick to blame availability even when we know the product is in stock in the store.
This theory is backed up when we learn that 90 per cent of shoppers going into an off-licence expect to be able to find what they're looking for quickly and easily - but on departure only 70 per cent found what they were looking for.
Suppliers and retailers need to review merchandising and signage but from a consumers' angle - how easy is it to shop the shop?
Ultimately, it comes down to listening to and understanding your customers, embracing change, focusing on retail execution and delivering with passion.
If you would like to find out more about this year's SOLtrack findings, please contact Tom Fender at HIM on Tom.Fender@HIM.uk.com, or telephone 07802 336 333.
Try something different today
From our ongoing customer tracking programmes, we believe off-licences may have some success if they introduce the following:
Chilled "ready-to-drink-now" availability guarantees
"We will always have ice available" guarantees
Wide r product offering - encroach into convenience?
Integrate into the community - are off-licences really part of the community?
More premium products - don't play the price game. Offer more. Offer different
Services. 20 per cent of c-stores' traffic is for services
Glassware promotions - well communicated
Leaflets - local catchment area leaflet drops to improve frequency of visit, trip spend and promotion penetration
Big night in - doing all to exploit this mission?
Extend offer to food service, e g chilled/frozen pizza
Wine tasting. Themed days/week
Written recommendations/manager's choice
Spirits in main flow
Better display for soft drinks, confectionery
Sell add-ons - cards, flowers, bottle bags, gifts.