Sunday, February 21, 2010

How Wine Stores Can Sell More Saké

I have been to your wine stores, and seen how you display your Saké, if you even sell it. I know when you showcase Saké at your weekly tastings and special events, which usually is rare. I have spoken to you and gauged the extent of their knowledge of Saké, often which is limited. I am sure you wish you could sell more Saké, but you may be unsure exactly how to do so.

Let me offer some advice and suggestions in this regard. I have a deep passion for Saké and I wish to share that with others, as well as share my knowledge about this mysterious brew. In the end, this may increase your sales, and what wine store owner doesn't desire that?

First, educate yourself. The more you know about Saké, the better able you will be to sell it. You will be able to explain about it to your customers, to be better able to answer their questions. This is just common sense. You learn about the wines you sell, the various grapes, fermentation process and wine regions, so why not learn about Saké too? It is not as difficult to learn about it as you might think.

Second, carry premium Saké. If you want your customers to enjoy Saké, then don't stock the the cheapest, lowest quality brews. Carry the premium ones, and give your customers a quality beverage that they are more likely to enjoy. There are plenty of premium Sakés that cost under $20, and some even under $10, so price should not be a real impediment.

Third, carry some half-bottles. Many Saké brands come in 300ml half-bottles, rather than the usual 720ml bottle. Customers are more likely to take a chance on a Saké if they can buy only a half-bottle. It does not seem as great a risk as buying a full bottle. Plus, a half-bottle is cheaper than buying a full bottle so it becomes more enticing. You should carry full bottles as well, but make sure you have a good mix of bottle sizes.

Fourth, educate your customers. Not enough people understand about Saké so they are very reluctant to try it. Wine still intimidates many people, and Saké probably intimidates them even more. So run some basic Saké classes at your store, give your customers a foundation of information that will remove their fear and trepidation. If you don't feel confident running such a class yourself, I am available for hire to do so. Or there are other people knowledgeable enough to run such a class.

Fifth, tell your customers stories. Don't just provide them the cold, hard facts about Saké. Tell them stories about this ancient brew, its history, rituals, and personalities. Fascinate and intrigue them, making Saké come alive. They might not always remember the terminology or steps of the brewing process, but they are far more likely to recall the interesting stories.

Sixth, let your customers taste. Have more Saké tastings, and give your customers a chance to see the diversity of types and styles of Saké, the varied flavors it can contain. If they get to taste the Saké, they may realize they actually do enjoy it and will be more likely to buy some. They have preconceptions that need to be broken down, and letting them taste Saké is one of the best ways to do that. At your large tasting events, add a couple Sakés. Have some Saké-only tasting events. Add a Sparkling Saké to your next Champagne & Sparkling wine tasting.

Seventh, provide info sheets. Your Saké often sits alone on the shelves and a customer may be confused if they simply look at the label. The kanji and unfamiliar terminology may intimidate them. What is needed is a brief information sheet accompanying each Saké, telling your customers something about it, giving them a reason to give it a try. For example, tell your customers whether the Saké is dry or sweet, full bodied or light, or even fruit-flavored or earthy.

Eighth, add some food. Saké is very food friendly, pairing well with many other foods besides Japanese cuisine. Yet most people mistakenly believe it is mainly good for sushi. So add some non-Japanese cuisine to your Saké tastings, showing how other foods do work well. Try a nice Junmai with some fried chicken, or a mushroom risotto with an earthy Yamahai or Kimito. Add pairing suggestions to your info sheets. Show your customers its versatility.

So now go forth and sell more Saké!

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