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How to Merchandise your Bar to maximise sales

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21/11/2022 There are many ways to go about boosting your bar sales, and much of it comes down to merchandising. But what does this mean exactly?

There are many ways to go about boosting your bar sales, and much of it comes down to merchandising. But what does this mean exactly? While the marketing industry likes to baffle us with bewildering jargon, merchandising is basically anything you do that helps you sell more products to your customers.

Customers can’t buy what they can’t see, so ensure that your highest profit drinks are well displayed

“Effective merchandising is about grabbing the attention of your customers to trigger an emotional response to generate action,” according to Chris Holden, director of Burton-on-Trent-based Ashdale Business Consulting which has advised many hospitality businesses on how to improve their profitability.

Chris Holden, director of Ashworth Business Consulting

Chris Holden, director of Ashworth Business Consulting has advised many hospitality businesses on how best to merchandise their bars for maximum profit

Customers can’t buy what they don’t see, so one of the most effective merchandising techniques is to exploit your customers’ field of vision.  While customers’ eyes tend to glance over the middle positions, the strongest area to display any products is the right-hand side of the field of vision. Most retailers will position brands they wish to promote in this spot, as it’s the first place that customers will look and the most likely they will remember – sometimes referred to as “eye dwell”.

The prime selling positions are where customers are most likely to be influenced to make a purchase, and this is where your highest gross profit products should be situated. Typically, these include above the till, when on the back bar, beside the till - and particularly on the right-hand side; the optic rail, coolers, and fridges; and eye-level locations en route to the bar such as pillars.  To steal a phrase from the marketing gurus. “eye level is buying level”, which means that any display positioned between three and seven feet will hit the sweet spot in the middle of your customers’ immediate focal point. This can particularly help boost the sales of impulse spirits such as liqueurs and pricey malt whiskies.

Conversely, the so-called “cold spots” within a bar are those areas where visibility is lowest, such as the bottom left. This space is best used for storing things such as glasses, rather than wasting it on products with a high-profit margin where you want to maximize sales. But remember, this doesn’t apply just to the bar area, but also to any printed material such as menus. The bottom left area is a good place to put any pictures. 

“It’s easy to forget that your pub or club is predominantly a retail outlet, a place which sells food and drinks – the detail a licensee affords their back bar and other displays will reflect the level of sales achieved,” advises Holden.

Displaying drinks in bulk

Displaying drinks in bulk makes for a distinctive display

He recommends creating a bulk display of a single product, known in the trade as double or mass facing, which really helps to make an eye-catching impact. Failing that, even two or more single products grouped together helps to increase visibility and impact, and this can be achieved via horizontal or vertical stacking, which is an especially effective tool with drinks such as RTD spirits and premium lagers. Even using familiar spirits brands can increase sales by up to 10%.

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Some leading bars even serve their products from different areas so as to avoid messing up the fridge displays, ensuring their effectiveness remains as strong as possible.

Another effective tool that bars and restaurants could employ to ramp up sales is to communicate with the customer before they even reach the bar, via eye-level displays and posters which can help undecided customers to make up their minds about what drinks they are going to order before they reach the bar, helping to increase turnover, notably during busy periods of the day.

Don’t overlook the loos in your venue

Don’t overlook the loos in your venue, which can be used to promote drinks or events to a captive audience

And don’t forget that even your toilets can also be used as a way to influence customers’ buying decisions. Putting up displays above urinals or on the back of cubicle doors means you have the undivided attention of your customer during what might otherwise be a frenetic night out.  Wines of the week, brand promotions, or forthcoming events are all good examples of things you could advertise in these otherwise overlooked locations.

Promoting drinks that have recently benefited from a TV

Promoting drinks that have recently benefited from a TV or radio campaign can successfully jog consumers’ memories 

It can also be worthwhile piggybacking on the back of a TV or radio advertising campaign, to gain maximum traction as an in-outlet reminder of a drink your customers may already have seen.

Displaying related items together is yet another technique that can be successfully employed to get your sales moving, and add value to your customer and boost your bottom line. For example, offering pastries or quality biscuits with coffee during the day, liqueurs or brandies with coffee in the evening, or high profit-margin tonics and mixers with your standard spirits can all help you to encourage your customers to splash out.  Don’t forget that phenomenally successful fast food chains such as Mcdonald's have made fortunes by asking their customers simple questions such as whether “they’d like fries with that?” or “is that a large Coke?”. 

Another important factor to consider in the successful merchandising of a bar or restaurant is the appearance of the bar.  The back bar in your venue is your shop window and should be well-lit, uncluttered, and not filled with space wasters. Instead, use the space to showcase relevant displays which will encourage your customers to open their wallets.

Too much choice is not necessarily a good thing as customers

Too much choice is not necessarily a good thing as customers can feel overwhelmed and paralyzed with indecision

It's not just the back bar that should look organised and streamlined but the entire venue. While it’s good to give customers choice, you can overdo it with too much information, so avoid multiple posters and signs which can not only be confusing but also makes your bar look untidy.  And keep your bar and any displays fresh, and update and change them on a regular basis so that they don’t just become background noise to regular customers.

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