Monday, November 30, 2009

Scalability from your tea suppliers

We see many specialty tea retailers offering wholesale programs. I think this can be particularly exciting, if you can identify a retailer who is importing their own, carefully selected teas. The buyer should know the teas intimately and if they are buying a garden that they have dealt with previously, they will also be aware of the seasonality and how comparable this season's crop is to last year's.

One of the challenging of getting started in wholesale as a supplier or establishing a relationship with a new tea suppler is scalability. As an importer, there is always the risk of buying at too high of a price or in too great a quantity. Alternatively, we experience regret when we find a great buy at a discount price and then can't supply enough product to meet demand. This latter case speaks to scalability and how flexible your current supplier is in handling orders across a broad range of buy sizes.

Take for example the Championship Teas at the World Tea Expo. Once we have an award winning tea or series of teas, the demand immediately escalates. Similarly, once an astute, large scale buyer finds a perceived undervalued tea, they may wish to buy out our entire lot with a single purchase order.

We constantly reassess our buying patterns to minimize in price and supply for our clients. Nevertheless, it should be noted that we are in a truly unique position of wholesaling and distributing conventional and organic tea products for a wide range of clients - everything from 2 lbs to thousands of pounds. Our buying is often made one to four months in advance of the receiving date.

I have a particular interest in business analytics. Certainly we have collected sufficient data on the above to begin modeling and managing inventory more efficiently. Perhaps this can be a good project for 2010.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Retail Discount Pricing

We manage both a retail tea shop and wholesale tea distribution business. In both ventures, we find continual challenges in analyzing sales data to identify price sensitivities and appropriate price points. This holiday season, in particular, brings with it a very astute, savvy consumer who wishes to confirm value above ultra-premium, short term sparkle.

Tea is in a unique position as a consumable. No matter the cost, it will be consumed over time, with a very moderate per cup price. What helps establish a higher price point is a shared appreciation between the buyer and seller - an appreciation of both what makes a tea special on paper and how it cups over time. While the buyer will only keep a few essential facts in mind when enjoying a tea, it is really the repeat, reaffirming cups that will keep the buyer loyal. And frankly speaking, loyalty to a seller's brand or reputation is what offers greater variability in discretionary pricing.

When we do guided cuppings in our store, we always have the goal of giving the customer a positive enough experience that they will return. We try our best to build loyalty over the long term. That loyalty is personal and long lasting - we believe it is much more forgiving than the disappointment from purchasing a "grocery branded" off product.

So in our desire to offer 10%, 20% or even greater discounts to bring customers in the door, we will do that by demonstrating our compassion for our clients and our commitment to serving our tea community in the long term. The greatest challenge now facing a retailer is knowing this has been a difficult sales year and yet looking primarily at discounts as a core motivator for the consumer to act now.

The day after Thanksgiving is really about the big box retailer. What small business retailer would want to open at 4am anyways?!!! Nevertheless, we do share in the trying times with our clients and we are kicking off this holiday season with broad based discount programs at both Infusions of Tea and Kopius Teas. We hope our clients will take advantage of this sales opportunity, as wholesale prices will most definitely increase early 2010. 

We wish everyone a joyful and loving Thanksgiving. For us, we are most grateful for the single day off we will have before Christmas!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Updated flowering / display tea photographs

We just updated the photographs for our display teas. Some people refer to these as flowering teas. Whichever name you prefer, they are a class of hand tied teas which blossom in your cup.

This Christmas Tree display tea reminded me of the holidays. Very festive colors and the shape is triangular, like an actual Christmas tree.