Wednesday, 30 January 2013

January: Building sales, distribution and snowmen

I was looking forward to writing this post - the first in a series on cider making month by month, but things did not start well...

"So, Mike. What happens during January in the world of Henney's cider making"


But there has been some activity this month. Whilst very little is happening in terms of the actual cider making, January is the perfect time to work on building sales and distribution. And certainly I have heard plenty of phone activity coming from his office this month.

Henney's is stocked in most of the major supermarkets in the UK - no mean feat when you consider there are no account managers or sales teams - just Mike.

Since the very beginning Mike has had a couple of key objectives - firstly (and obviously) to make a really good craft cider, but secondly to make a really good craft cider that is as widely available as possible.  And of course, if you want to make something widely available, supermarkets are going to play a key role.

From the word go Mike has had a really positive attitude to supermarkets. It probably helps that his background is in account management for other, major drinks brands so he is used to dealing with big retailers, not suspicious of them.

But there is a lot of work to do in maintaining and developing supermarket listings. This month has involved endless phone calls, messages and emails trying to get appointments with the appropriate buyers - cider commonly falls into the same grocery category as beers, and the category buyers are very, very busy.

If it's already a strong account for Henney's, Mike is still keen to meet with the buyer, review sales and introduce new products (have you read our post on Henney's Exhibition?).

And if it's a new retailer then he is simply trying to make a contact, maybe get an appointment to present the range. Plus buyers change roles all the time so there are often new people to meet.

And if all goes well and an appointment is made, then that's a full day out of the office and lots of traveling - curiously enough there are very few supermarket HQs based in Herefordshire.  It always makes me smile when Mike says he will be out all day because he is "going to Tesco's" - as if he off to do a giant shop.

And then there's all the promotional proposals to work out - most retailers work a long way in advance and are, naturally, keen for suppliers to put together discounts and promotional offers that they can pass on to their customers.

So that's what January has been all about. Phone calls, emails, meetings, proposals.

Oh, and a spot of playing in the snow.

Mike builds his customer base
Sometimes by hand.

And don't worry - Mike promises me that February will involve such things as 'racking' and 'blending' - in other words some proper cider making stuff.

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