Small businesses have been on a hot streak. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that they’ve increased their hiring by more than 100,000 people per month for the past 15 months straight. And, tahey have bright outlooks, as the National Federation of Independent Business said in January that 67% of small businesses believe they’ll increase their revenues in 2015. That number jumped from 52% at the beginning of 2014.
“With the economy improving every day,” said Lisa Stevens, head of small business for Wells Fargo, which released a confidence index in February showing small businesses having a brighter outlook today than at any time in the last seven years, “many business owners are seeing stronger revenues and are feeling a renewed sense of confidence and expecting an even better year ahead.”
The result provides distributors with a wealth of sales opportunities right in their backyard. The small companies that are on every street corner of Main Street America offer distributors growing chances at revenues close to home. While these deals can come from the likes of supermarkets and auto repair shops and delicatessens and restaurants, there are two burgeoning sectors that distributors should be sure to call on: barber shops and wine stores.
Indeed, the storefronts in every town that are cutting hair and selling spirits can provide today’s distributor with a reliable – and growing – source of new business. Here’s why these two sectors are flourishing today, as well as some steps for how distributors can capitalize on the opportunities.
A good barber is like a therapist, and a good barbershop offers much more than just a haircut and a close shave. At least, that’s what Nic Prosseda, the owner of Modern Male Barbershop in Sellersville, PA, thinks.
“Men tell their barber things they don’t even tell their mother,” he says. In addition to providing inexpensive haircuts and grooming, Modern Male boasts beer on tap and regular cigar nights. “We’re giving men a place to hang out like they did back in the day,” Prosseda says.
Modern Male is part of a growing trend of traditional-with-a-twist barbershops: marketing a masculine style of pampering that includes hot lather shaves with a straight razor, and leather couches and bourbon bottles in the waiting area. It’s a pushback against the ubiquity of unisex salons and anonymous strip mall chains. For many men, it’s been a welcome change.
“Barbershops are progressive, trying to brand themselves to be set apart from just being a place to get a haircut. It’s more about the overall experience,” says Weston Caple, owner of DGI Creative, a custom sign and apparel company in Hanover, PA. “The customers are really grasping it. They’re taking pride in their barbershop. They actually like to represent their barbershop.”
That pride easily translates into promotional products sales. Snap-back hats and T-shirts are popular sellers for Modern Male, which also markets its own line of skincare and shaving products. “It turns into a conversation piece,” Prosseda says. “People recognize our brand now.”
When it comes to design trends, many barbershops favor large prints and bright colors for their apparel and ad specialty items. “They’re loud, bold, in your face,” Caple says.
DGI Creative often breaks out the special effects inks for barbershop clients. For instance, a barbershop the company works with requested Halloween-themed shirts for a town parade, so DGI dropped the shop’s logo onto a simulated spot process pumpkin image, then added a spider and spooky lettering using a glow-in-the-dark overlay.
Another trend for barbershops is marrying their promotional campaigns with social media, Caple says. “Hashtags are huge right now,” he adds. Barbershops develop tag lines that they incorporate into their gear in the hopes of enlarging their fan base on Twitter, Facebook and other sites. “It’s just another way to identify with a customer that much more,” Caple says.
Barbershops typically prefer water-based or discharge ink, rather than plastisol prints, according to Juan Carlos Castellon of Squeegee Prints Silk Screening. The Chula Vista, CA-based printer has worked with four different barbershops in the last year, all of which favor a different style of garment and design. “It’s important to know that each barber shop is different,” he says. “A screen printer should get to know the barbershop they’re working with in order to understand what look they want to achieve.”
In addition to retail opportunities, most barbershops need uniforms, whether in the form of printed T-shirts or embroidered cut coats for a more upscale look. Suggest adding a logo on tools of the barber trade, like towels or the capes customers don, to unify the shop’s branding and boost your profits.
300,000 The number of licensed barbers in the United States.
11% The expected growth in barber employment over the next decade.
24% of all wine drinkers in 2013 were millennials, the second-highest age demographic after baby boomers.
55% of those buying high-end wines last year were millennials.
A Younger Vintage
With barber shops growing in popularity thanks to their renewed efforts to appeal to new clientele, another sector of the local community is taking a similar approach to its business. Wine and spirits stores have realized that a new group of buyers are reaching the marketplace and they need to adjust accordingly.
Let’s face it. Wine can be intimidating, and wine drinkers have often been portrayed as pretentious, spouting off fanciful flavor descriptions that seem to bear little resemblance to the fermented grapes in their glass.
The portrayal of wine is changing, however, due to a new generation of enthusiastic wine drinkers: millennials. In terms of generations, only baby boomers drink more wine. And as millennials get more involved in the buying and making of wine, they are especially ready to try brands with playful irreverence, plain-spoken descriptions and, of course, a great taste.
Take Rebel Coast Winery, which was launched two years ago by brothers who brag on their website that their first batches of wine were blended in trash cans and under bridges. One of those brothers, Chip Forsythe, says the brand appeals to millennials because Rebel Coast’s authenticity shines through.
“We’re not faking anything, just grabbing a camera and computer to document what we do on a daily basis,” he says. “When it comes to wine, millennials want something that is not intimidating to pronounce, but is fun to say and, most of all, memorable.”
The way it does that is in how it markets and promotes itself. First of all, the company’s tagline is, “Not your parents’ winery.” “Most wineries have been around since the ’60s and have a bottle of wine and marketing approach that reflects that,” Forsythe says. “It’s not that we are revolutionary; it’s that this market has been so ripe for disruption that it makes us look like visionaries.”
Another brand that appeals to the younger set, TXT Cellars, adopted the language of texting, marketing wines like OMG!!! chardonnay and WTF!!! pinot noir. With screw caps instead of corks and matter-of-fact labeling, the brand aims to cut out confusion for everyday consumers.
“We developed it with an idea of bringing texting, something that almost everyone could relate to, with unpretentious, easy-to-drink wine,” says Mark Tucker, director of marketing at Vision, Wine & Spirits, which represents the TXT brand.
Marketing to millennials brings expanded promotional products opportunities as well. Though traditional embellishment methods on apparel like screen printing and embroidery are still favored, many wineries are opting for trendier, retail-inspired designs, says Eddie Brascia, co-owner of Sonoma Design, Apparel and Promotions (asi/329869). Located in the heart of wine country, Sonoma Design has a lot of experience helping wineries promote their brands.
For the most part, the wineries won’t alter their logos for apparel, but the trend is to place the logos in unique spots, rather than the standard left chest, he says. Designs will go on sleeves, or yokes, the bottom hems or wrap around the shirt. Or, for example, Sonoma Design will add a vine that curls through the logo and up around a shirt’s V-neck. “Something to make it look a little different,” Brascia says.
Rebel Coast has had a lot of luck selling its branded T-shirt with what it calls its “Bear Scare” graphic: a menacing bear behind the silhouette of a wine bottle. “We can’t make enough,” Forsythe says. “No joke, we literally have people stealing our shirts at every event we do.”
He says that the winery has ordered several thousand shirts in the last six months from Los Angeles-based decorator The Social Life. The winery only has about 20 shirts remaining from that order, says Forsythe.
The wine market is on an upswing, and creating promotional campaigns for wine shops that are looking to appeal to this new generation of buyers can be lucrative for distributors, Brascia says. “There are lots of wineries popping up,” he says. Now that’s something you can raise a glass to.