According to the business publication Hoovers, around 30,000 liquor stores comprised the nation’s small retail network in 2011. Some are chains but most are small mom-and-pop package stores generating around $35 billion in sales each year. The success of your bottle store start-up will be driven by the neighborhood you choose to establish your shop, your marketing acumen and a competitive pricing menu. Tackle these challenges with an innovative business plan and your bottle store should thrive.
Investigate your legal obligations. You’ll be at the mercy of your state, city and county liquor authority, alcohol beverage commission or the government entity charged with responsibility for approving and issuing liquor licenses. These credentials are issued in a business owner’s name, not the name of the establishment, so you’ll have to apply for one even if you’re buying a store that’s up and running. You may wish to hire an attorney to help you with these matters.
Check out the financial health of bottle stores on the market that meet your criteria for location and price. Push the owner to find out why he’s selling. You need to know if he’s cutting his losses because the area is being rezoned and liquor stores won't be included in the merchant mix. Make certain there are no lawsuits or liens attached to the property. Importantly, inspect the books to see if the store is failing for any of a variety of reasons, including competition from big box discounters in the vicinity.
Apply to a bank or venture capital firm for start-up cash. Excellent credit and solid track record for paying off old business loans will increase your chances of getting approvals. Put a down payment on the bottle store if you’re buying a business or shop for supplies and equipment if you’re starting from scratch, including a computerized cash register system, rack and shelving units, a sophisticated alarm system, commercial coolers and lighting. Earmark cash for insurance binders and deposits on rent, utilities, signage and other supplies.
Introduce yourself to liquor distributorships (see Resources) in your geographic area. Most liquor store owners buy directly from distributors to streamline the ordering, inventorying and delivery process. If you’re buying a pre-stocked store, ask the owner to introduce you to your reps as soon as you’ve taken possession of the store.
Promote your bottle store. Mail fliers with discount coupons to households within your ZIP code to introduce yourself as the new owner. Give away free cans of cashews or peanuts with purchase during your first month in business. Keep your prices in line with competitors and take advantage of marketing programs, signage and other manufacturer perks.
Stay on top of trends in the spirits industry so you know about them before new liquor, wine and beer products are introduced to the public.