The time is now! The time is now! This is not a Gary V rally cry, although perhaps it should be as he is a smart dude! This is the hard reality of the 2018 selling season for adult beverage. The front line reports are all trickling in now, and it is not pretty out there. We are in the month of January, a horrifically slow month, and now we have a week to 10 days long bitter cold snap. With all this happening the year has just been shortened to 11 months. Shorter still if you think about the fact that distributors and accounts really do not buy new brands in December. We are now looking at a 10 month year for 2018.

I was called last year by the CFO of a top three distributor. A friend, a guy that I know. A man that has been at my kids birthdays. This unnamed man asked me to lay off the rhetoric of “distributors don’t build brands.” He said that his leadership teams nationally were getting heat from brands that were asking for more and (heaven forbid) expecting more from the distribution agreement. This same man also asked me if BevStrat wanted to sell the brands that were “forgotten” by said distributor. Finally he asked me to stop spreading awareness/fear that the independent brand and account were in jeopardy of extinction given consolidation, etc. So I will share with my readers that I will not comply with any of the “asks.” Our role at BevStrat is to support the independent and small brands with sales and marketing solutions around the world and that might not jive with the Big Three, but we will stay the course.

The year is starting slow for both accounts and brands. This coming week, to the day, is when the 30 day bills will come due. This week is when 98% of all licensed accounts will get bills from big buying last month and beg, borrow, plead for revenue or income to pay these bills or risk being on the “list.” This same week coincidently comes as brands are getting out there and looking for sales to make January a good month. What a crazy time when paying big bills comes at the same time as you will need new goods and comes at the same time when being on “the list” will kill your weekend sales because the consumer is ready to get after it again. The horrible life cycle of our business.

Let us break down early 2018 into small goals instead of looking at 2018 as a whole.

  • Football Playoffs
  • Super Bowl
  • Valentines Day
  • St. Pats
  • And a host of local events that you can plan deals and sell ins with for the coming few months.

No matter what is happening with the three tier system, the supplier, our core client, still needs to sell and cannot wait for the big players to dictate what success looks like and sounds like. What we recommend is reaching out to all the accounts that bought your goods in late 2018 and schedule an in person visit or some other communication. In this day of corporate this and corporate that, the personal touch is making a comeback. This is what we are seeing on the ground that is leading to early 2018 wins. We also recommend selling from an epicenter. What this means is that it is important to find a hub of success and focus outward from that point. It is so much easier to say that “so and so carries this brand with success” and so should you Mr/Mrs Independent account. This is how we @ BevStrat are starting the year, and we are off to a respectable selling start.

I guess finally and importantly, is that we, our company, our passion, work for the small brands. We work for the distiller in Orlando, the beer maker in Nashville and the vineyard in Santa Barbara. Offering a life raft to a cruise ship does no good. Offering a life raft to the rudderless brand, is our mission. As brand owners it is critical that you look at what the industry is telling you and listen closely. The mergers, the Amazon deal, the flood of new goods into market, is all telling you to get off your ass and get smart. Smart on how you market, how you sell and how you differentiate your brands from what is already out there. NO ONE needs what we sell. NO ONE! We need to convince the consumer and the distributor and the account that we are a better mousetrap, no matter what you are creating. That is what 2018 is going to be about. Eat of be eaten! Happy Selling!

Brian RosenThree Tier Talk
by Brian Rosen,

Brian Rosen is Former CEO of America’s #1 Retailer, Sam’s Wines in Chicago, Former Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Retail and sought after retailer consultant.

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