As things in town have begun to slow down, we’ve already begun the process of reviewing the 2015 summer season and preparing both Provisions 124 and The Wine Shack for 2016. I’m a firm believer that if you aren’t working to improve your business, then you’re going to fall behind your competition. In the wine business, competition is fierce and it is everywhere: on the internet, in the supermarket, and in the customer’s hometown wine shop. These are tough competitors. Every week, we have more customers showing us wines, ratings and prices on their smartphones. It’s clear that our customers have more access to wine information than ever before.

We opened the Provisions 124 gourmet market just before the summer season kicked in and we set out to offer local, artisan and delicious products that you couldn’t find everywhere. For the most part, we’ve accomplished that. Our small but mighty cheese selection draws rave reviews with customers. I knew that people were looking for options other than those from large cheese factories, but we really didn’t have an understanding of how much people love their cheese. We do now. There have been a number of similar surprises and learnings, but I’ll save those for another column.

The Wine Shack has been a fixture in Cannon Beach since 1977. Since we purchased “The Shack” in 2012, we’ve made some smaller changes that may have gone relatively unnoticed, such as a new store layout and changing to Reidel glasses for wine tasting. We’ve also made some more noticeable changes, such as a new store logo, new website, new flooring, changing our wine selection to promote Pacific Northwest wines and of course, opening up the wall and expanding the space with Provisions 124.

We plan to keep improving the interior of The Wine Shack. Planned improvements for 2016 include new energy efficient lighting, new wine racks, new interior signage and the addition of a couple of design elements to give the store a more updated look and feel. I also expect that we’ll make some adjustments to our wine selections as well. The interest in European wines continues to wane, while the interest in excellent local selections continues to grow. The Wine Shack needs to be the “go to” place on the Oregon Coast for the very finest wines from Oregon and Washington.

The other area we will work on is improving the customer experience and customer loyalty. We want to make sure customers have a good time while they’re in our store and will come back to The Wine Shack the next time they are in Cannon Beach and recommend The Wine Shack to their friends. I’m terrible at remembering customers’ names and it doesn’t help that we may only see a customer once or twice a year. Customers want to be appreciated and we’ll work on identifying our best customers and welcoming them by name. We’ll do more in-store wine tastings as those seem to be the perfect way to get people to loosen up a bit and have a bit more fun while they’re in the store.

It’s great to have a customer come into The Wine Shack once, but we really want to create a lifelong customer. The cash register system we use, Square Point of Service, will help us to improve customer loyalty. Square has recently added a customer database capability that will allow us to track our customer’s purchase history. This is an enhancement that I’ve been asking Square to add for over a year. Last year, Square began offering gift cards and loyalty discount programs. We’ve had success with the loyalty discount program, but we haven’t used their gift card program yet. I expect we’ll be active in both programs in 2016.

We also plan to create a “wine club” so our customers can get their Puffin wine, Oregon pinot noir and Washington red wine throughout the year. We had planned to launch the wine club for 2015, but that got put on hold once we started working on Provisions 124. Customers who join the wine club will receive special perks and discounts, but we see this as our key customer group who will get the very finest services we can provide.

So, although the quiet season is approaching, we have a lot on our “to do list.” We’ll get crackin’ on the list and see you the next time you visit Cannon Beach.

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