Continuing the interview series with retail buyers around the country. This week’s interview features Jonathan Blue, Chairman and Managing Director of Blue Equity, LLC, the parent company of Liquor Barn and Party Mart in Kentucky.
Tell us about your store(s):
We operate 21 stores throughout the state of Kentucky ranging from 5,000-square-foot express stores to 40,000-square-foot destination stores that draw from the entire region. We are the largest independent retailer in the region and in addition to receiving #3 ranked BARC award as a top 3 retailer in the nation, we just received the prestigious Market Watch award from Shanken as a leading retailer for 2020 in North America.
What are some of the hot trends in your area right now?
As expected, we are the nation’s leaders in retail bourbon and there is no end in sight to the insatiable demand. Tequila and RTDs demand has increased significantly in the past 9 months.
How has COVID-19 changed your operations?
We had to shut down tastings and our in-store upscale bar experiences. We are about to resume in-store tastings shortly under strict protocol. We were the first in the state to implement delivery though our app which gave us a head start on the competition and drove significant business during the height of Covid.
How do you make decisions on new products?
I consult with the buying team for new innovations. The most important areas we consider are: a) initial exclusivity b) initial reduced pricing that coincides with the introductory period c) significant POS support d) in-store tasting support when permitted and applicable e) a strong product with superior packaging
What impresses you most in a new product pitch?
The management and ownership team is evaluated as a part of the process. Additionally, the distributor does matter to us. Lastly, delivery time promises must be met.
What is one piece of advice for brand owners in 2020?
A strong, value-oriented initial presentation with exclusivity for us as a part of the introduction is critical. Most importantly is the believable story behind the brand. Everyone loves a story. It needs to stick with the staff and our customers and make the sale of the product that much easier.