In early November I was surprised at the amount of Christmas decorations everywhere. I even saw a mall Christmas tree one week before Halloween! Despite the hectic feel and busyness of the season, it is still one of my favorite times of year. Most everyone is in a good mood and Christmas day is such a peaceful day. That got me thinking about breweries and how they can best navigate through the holiday season sanely and profitably.
Stock Up on Merchandise
There isn’t a better time of year to spread the brand far and wide by stocking up on your merchandise. Don’t think of it as a money making opportunity, but rather as the creation of brand ambassadors. Every time someone wears or displays your brand, they are telling the world about your brewery. If you are not selling your merchandise online, you should. More and more people are opting to purchase online and the merchandise component for your brewery should be no exception. This requires you to embed a shopping cart module into your website, and a staff member to ‘manage the store’. They will need to pack and ship orders and ensure the information is integrating with the accounting system. It can be quite complex, so if you don’t want to invest in the infrastructure, there are companies who will handle the fulfillment for you.
Merchandise sales start to pick up right around Thanksgiving and do not let up until Christmas. Make sure that you have enough of your branded offerings on-hand as people favor certain sizes in clothing over others. Order more than you need to ensure you don’t run out before Christmas as many people will be purchasing your items as gifts. Also, this is a great time to move out stale inventory by running promos and specials.
Offer Gift Cards for Your Brewery
People are looking for the perfect gift this time of year and what better way for your fans to enjoy your brewery more often than to offer gift cards. However, please, please, please use a gift card service. It is not that expensive and manual tracking of gift cards can be a nightmare. The gift cards should be usable not only in your brewery, but online as well, and at events in which you participate. I know that can be a bit tricky to do, but your fans don’t see any difference between your brewery and the website, so gift giving needs to also work in both places. This requires some forethought and coordination between your point of sale system and the website, but it is critical to have a seamless process in place for gift card redemption.
Breweries are Great Locations for Holiday Parties
Everyone is looking for a special place to have a memorable experience for their holiday party. Many customers and companies look for someplace more unique than a hotel ballroom so why not open up your brewery to holiday parties (subject to state laws of course). Even if you don’t have a specific ‘event space’, you could close your brewery to the public during a private holiday party, and communicate this well ahead of time on your social media channels so your regulars are aware. Also be sure to give party goers tokens so that no one drinks too much. If possible, plan fun activities in the brewery; tours are always a good idea. In Minnesota, we used to light portable fire pits in the patio area which helped eliminate crowding, drew people around the fire, and created an intimate feel.
If you do have a designated event space, make sure that event planners know that it’s available. Market your space to the chamber of commerce, event planning societies, and even the visitor’s center. Make custom tent cards for tables in the brewery that advertise the space and the benefits of holding a party there.
I admit that some of these ideas take some time and there may not be enough of that yet this year to implement everything, but if you start something now, you can capture some holiday sales and be ready for the 2019 holiday season.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!