From the Field — 31 July 2012

“This isn’t that kind of bar.”
“We’re really only a wine store.”
“My clientele will never buy something that expensive.”
“No one asks for it.”

I can’t write any more or I’ll end up grinding my teeth till my gums are slapping. These are just a few, but often heard lines I’ve come across in my five plus years at Hunterdon. When I first started with Hunterdon, the North Jersey beer scene was lackluster. Hearing these lines from retailers confused me. Didn’t they know how amazing and revolutionary the American beer scene was becoming? Hadn’t they had that awesome new pilsner from Pennsylvania or that spot-on belgian triple coming out of our very own Garden State?

Easy answer. They didn’t.

My favorite anecdote came about a year into my career. I was selling a fair amount of product, but still hadn’t been able to crack a few stores, one in particular. Day after day, week after week, month after month I would stop by said store and drop off samples, which would mostly accumulate in the manager’s office. How was I going to get through to this manager? I was given the standards “Won’t work,” “No one asks,” etc. etc. etc. One day while in said store I was chatting up the manager, who we’ll call Bob for the sake of the story, about a certain brand. I’m fairly certain my words were falling on deaf ears until one of the stores loyal customers walked up and intervened.

“Excuse me, you sell that?” said the customer.

I replied that I did. The customer continued.

“I’ve been looking for that for months! And you sell that as well?” The customer asked pointing to my shirt which sported another brand in the Hunterdon portfolio to which I politely nodded. The customer asked me what other brands I had and I began to tell him. About ten seconds into me rattling off some brands the customer cuts me off.

“Bob. I want everything he just said.”

“Well why haven’t you asked for it!” Bob said.

“Never thought to.”

Bob looked a little defeated at that moment and I found no joy in it. Bob was just doing his job how he thought best. People are busy. If something isn’t in front of them they won’t think to ask or even remember what it is they’re looking for. If you have a store filled with candles, chances are you aren’t going to sell very many light bulbs.

Bob now has a killer craft beer, mead, and spirits section that is thriving. He gets it. But every once in a while if I have a new beer, spirit, mead or mixer that is top-quality that I know is going to perform strong I’ll pitch it to Bob. As soon as he tastes it and gets excited, it goes something like this:

“Wow, this stuff is great. I’ll take 5 cases.”

“I don’t know Bob. It’s kind of expensive. Nobody’s really asking for it. I don’t think it’ll work here.”

I’ll give you a hint as to Bob’s response. It involves telling me to go do something to myself.

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ashley.stima@gmail.com

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