Sourcing Point of Sale (POS) items, and choosing which vendors to work with is something that may seem trivial in the grand scheme of running a brewery, but can have a major impact on your pricing, merchandise sales, and brand reputation.
Cell phone cases are point of sale items.
What exactly is a Point of Sale item? POS items range from high end items to festival giveaways, LED signs to stickers, and everything in between. There’s a vendor out there for everything. Once you’ve decided on which items you need, it’s time to find a vendor for that item. Different items call for different types of vendors, so start by identifying what type of vendor you’re looking for.
Types of Vendors
There are a few types of vendors to keep in mind, and the one you choose may depend on what you’re using the item for. There are a few broad categories that most vendors fall into: local vendors, one stop shops, low-cost leaders, and specialty vendors.
Using local vendors can be a great thing for breweries that are looking to promote locality in their business model, and can make sense for small breweries looking for low shipping costs, small quantities, or community appeal. Having a local vendor with whom a brewery has a strong relationship can also help in situations where quick turnaround is needed. Local vendors are also great specialty items, such as beer soap. Terrapin Beer Co. uses local Normal Soap Company to source soap made with Terrapin beers.
(Best for: t-shirts, hats, and gift shop items)
One Stop Shops are another option for sourcing POS merchandise. Grandstand is a a great example of a one stop shop that provides everything from t-shirts to glassware, to tackers. Often, they also include design services as an option, which can be an advantage if you’re don't have a graphic designer on staff. The greatest benefit of a one-stop shop is that you’re interacting with one sales person for most of your needs, which can help cut down on time spent on sourcing merchandise. Breweries may also be able to negotiate pricing structure with a large vendor if they agree to purchase most of their POS through the company.
(Best for: glassware, giveaway items, and signage)
If pricing is an major concern (like freebie giveaways and one use items), sourcing items through a low-cost vendor may be a good option. Often these are online vendors like Vistaprint or Imprint.com only require that you upload art and pay with a credit card. These vendors often have quick turnaround times, which is an added value, but beware that sometimes you get what you pay for, and may not be able to return an item you’re unhappy with. While they have a range of items, they often don’t have standard brewery POS items like tackers or tap handles.
(Best for: small giveaway items, table tents, brochures, and posters)
Specialty vendors may also be local vendors, but specialize in a few items, or specific types of items. These are best used for furthering your brewery’s branding efforts. For example, Oskar Blues has incorporated biking into their company brand image, and uses Weevil Outdoor Supply, a mountain bike and cycling focused vendor known in the Southeast for hats and mountain bike jerseys. Specialty vendors are a great source of premium products, which is most effective in a gift shop, or for important accounts.
(Best for: gift shop items, tap handles, and incentive merchandise)
Values to Look for in a POS Vendor
When deciding whether or not to work with a vendor, there are few important things to keep in mind. Since dealing with vendors can end up taking up a lot of time, its important to consider things carefully.
Communication is a key value to seek out in your vendors. Whether it’s information about a delay in an order, or just a quick response to questions and order requests, good communication with vendors can save time and prevent headaches. Communication is a two way street, so be sure you’re requesting the right information from your vendors and being clear with what you want.
It doesn't matter if you’re using the vendor for one item, or all of your POS needs, be sure to look for reviews or testimonials of how the company handles customer service and support. Knowing that a vendor is willing to solve a problem if your items are delayed, or shipping to a different location than normal is can save you time in the long run, and can avoid the headaches of dealing with unexpected issues. Don't be afraid to ask for a contact of a current customer in order to get a recommendation, or reach out to another brewery to ask which vendor they’d recommend.
Another piece to consider when choosing a vendor is how creative they are. Even if they only offer one product, look at their online portfolio to see what they’ve done for other businesses. This is most important for POS items like LED signs, that should stand out and look different from others on the wall. If it looks like the vendor makes a lot of the same looking merchandise, it may be worth checking elsewhere. Creativity can also come in the form of options of items. Great vendors will often bring options for new POS items to you.
Working with a Set of Vendors
It’s best to have a mix of vendors that includes a one stop shop vendor, a few specialty vendors and a low cost vendor (and maybe some of them are also local). While it’s enticing to only work with one vendor, it’s often not practical. Specialty vendors can be an important piece of branding, which far outweighs the added time and cost. They are also more likely to reach past the beverage industry, which can be a great way to incorporate creative items into your POS set.
No matter how many vendors, or the mix, keep in mind that when selecting a vendor, you should try to select vendors that you’d like to work with for the long run.
If you liked reading this article, you may also like: The Essentials of Craft Beer Marketing.