Oct 30, 2018


Oct 30, 2018


These are eight mistakes that people make when staffing their liquor stores. Avoiding these pitfalls will eliminate most of the stressors and frustrations of running a successful store.

Finding the best new products to fill retail shelves is the chief task in the bottle business. Finding good people to empty these shelves into the hands of happy customers, is a much more difficult challenge.


  1. Settling for Employees Without Goals

When you’re hiring, the most important quality to seek out is someone who has aspirations in the industry. Someone who envisions a career in the beverage trade will be motivated to learn, and they will hope to maintain relationships and references in the field. As an employer, you can foster this motivation by incentivizing their progress. It’s important to give driven employees promotions and connect them to distributors and producers in the industry.


  1. Treating All Retail Experience the Same

While any experience is good experience, there are unique aspects of this business that don’t always translate from other retail sectors, such as apparel or electronics. Wine isn’t the same as a pair of shoes. Because drinks are a flavor based industry, it may be more valuable to hire someone who has worked in a restaurant, and who has experience catering to customer tastes, than holding out for someone with extensive retail experience.


  1. Not Starting with a Dialogue Around Your Product

It’s very important to set a precedent of discussing the products at your shop. Hiring interviews should include a discussion of wine, beer or spirits. The culture of your shop should be that in which employees spend more time talking about the product than gossiping. You can foster this culture by starting regular conversations with employees about what excites you about your inventory. We’re lucky to work in a field that provides joy for our customers. We don’t sell pencil sharpeners. It’s unusually easy to get employees excited about these products, and it only makes sense to take advantage of this privilege.


  1. Treating Product Knowledge as the Measure of a Good Employee

While keeping the staff knowledgeable should be a priority for a successful retail shop, it isn’t everything. Product knowledge isn’t even the most important thing. The most important aspects to look for in successful retail employees are a strong work ethic and a friendly, patient manner of customer service. Product knowledge can be taught over some months, but the values of kindness and hard work are much more difficult to instill in an employee.


  1. Pressuring Staff into Knowing More than They can Remember

It’s tempting to present an image of a sales staff that knows everything. It’s impressive to customers to imagine that everyone who works at your shop knows all there is to know about wine. The reality is that no one knows everything about wine, not even close. The best policy is to encourage staff to present realistic expectations about product knowledge and to speak from their experience rather than from authority. We find that this comes off as charming and honest anyway. The “fake it till you make it” approach will certainly backfire. Customers understand that it’s impossible for every employee to taste and clearly remember each bottle in your shop, but customers will sourly remember getting a hasty, misguided recommendation.


  1. Understaffing During the Holidays

The holiday crunch hits us from all sides. The one time of year when we need staff the most, our staff may be the least dependable. Cold season and family obligations can create staffing nightmares during your biggest weeks of the year. This is the time when traffic is at its highest, but customers also expect the highest level of service in the form of gift consultation and wrapping. It’s wise to be over-prepared. The holidays are an ideal time to test the mettle of new hires. Have more people available than you will need. It’s not a bad idea to have some friends or ex-employees on standby for staffing emergencies during your busiest weekends. Ask your employees for referrals. They will likely know some trained retail professionals from their past work experiences. These referrals could be eager for some extra holiday hours.


  1. Not Having a Set Standard for Feedback

Feedback comes in one direction on customer comment cards, but it has to flow in both directions between management and staff. As new hires adjust to their work environment, they need comfortable, open channels for feedback. A popular way to do this is by having regular review meetings for new hires. Allowing time for new hires to exchange concerns with management will help retain your new talent, and help you communicate with them so that they correct any bad habits developed from previous work experiences. These reviews also give you insight into how fresh eyes view the way your business manages staff.


  1. Not Sharing Business Results with Employees

Talking about your products helps encourage employees to be proud of your inventory, and discussing the successes of your business will encourage your employees to adopt an entrepreneurial spirit, and pride in the business. Let employees, especially new hires, know that your success hinges on their efforts. Don’t expect them to congratulate you on busy sales periods. You should congratulate them. If sales are slow, don’t blame their work, but you still have to let them know what is going on, so they’ll understand why you make any changes in scheduling or policy. Owners, managers and employees should all be rooting for each other to thrive. High sales are a great example of you all winning together, and you should celebrate these joint achievements together.