Friday, December 09, 2011

Texas Retailer Sigel’s Reveals Female-Friendly Strategy

(by Shanken News Daily) The buying power of women has soared, with most estimates showing that female shoppers account for more than 80% of all purchasing decisions. Beverage alcohol is very much in that mix, and many liquor retailers have responded by revamping their selling strategies. Tony Bandiera Jr., owner and CEO of the 13-unit Sigel’s Beverages L.P. in Dallas, Texas, has modeled all his stores with female shoppers in mind, and the effort has paid off. Last year, females accounted for 52% of Sigel’s customer base and a similar share of the retailer’s $120 million in annual sales. Shanken News Daily recently interviewed Bandiera, along with Sigel’s president of marketing John Rector, to discuss their strategies for appealing to female shoppers.

SND: Sigel’s is known for offering a vast product selection in every category. How does that tie in with appealing to the female shopper?

Bandiera: We do have a very large selection—one of the largest in the marketplace—because women like to see a lot of options and prefer to spend more time browsing than men. Women are more willing to sample new products and change brands, so many tasting events—except perhaps for whisk(e)y and a few other categories—skew heavily female. For instance, the shoppers at our liqueurs and cordials tasting festival are 75% female.

SND: What focus do you place on the shopping environment to garner female loyalty?

Bandiera: The presentation needs to be exceptional, and the stores need to be extremely neat. Men are going in with a purpose and don’t care what’s around them, but female shoppers are concerned about clutter. Our stores have a Neiman Marcus look: Our floor stacks don’t rise above five feet. Our interiors are aesthetically pleasing. It may seem counterintuitive to what you see in grocery stores, but we feel that women are anxious about tall sets of shelves that don’t allow a wide-open view of the store. They appreciate a clear view of what’s at the end of an aisle, from the beginning of that aisle. Wide aisles also are important. Shoppers should have spacious aisles so two people standing back-to-back won’t have to worry about bumping into each other. We also hire off-duty police to maintain a presence in stores and to direct traffic in parking lots during the high season. Our interiors are brightly lit and our parking lots are overlit. We’re not really worried about the safety of our customers per se, but there is a stigma attached to package stores, and we want to dispel that by making our customers feel comfortable shopping with us.

SND: How can employees provide women with customer service and education without smacking of condescension?

Bandiera: When a female shopper walks into a store, she wants to have equal treatment; she doesn’t want to be treated any more or less than the typical male shopper. But we do have employees on hand to help women to their cars with oversized packages. The main idea is not to patronize female shoppers—they know what’s going on around them. I think people know when you’re genuine and when you’re talking down to them. We strive to make them feel well-received and well-respected.

SND: Do you use specific merchandising strategies to capture female business?

Rector: In terms of product displays, color is an important aspect of our store and a definite influence in how we set our shelves. We try to capture the eye of female shoppers.

Bandiera: If you position two similar-looking products side-by-side on store shelves, they become completely washed out. So you need to contrast two very different label colors and bottle styles on the shelves so they’re visible and appeal to female shoppers.

SND: How have you geared your product selection to appeal to women?

Rector: Not to any great degree. But if something is presented to us as female-centric, we usually will go with it. For instance, the response to the recent launch of the Skinnygirl Margarita was 97% female. Products like that have been very popular among female shoppers.

SND: Have you found that male shoppers are appreciative of female-geared retailing strategies?

Bandiera: Absolutely. Many of our male customers feel very comfortable shopping with us for that reason. Before we realized that our Elite store status concept had taken off, tons of male customers had given us compliments. I’m very flattered when a customer notices change of any sort—other than the price of our wines.

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