Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Factors to Survive and Thrive In A Down Economy

Many may think that our premium-quality culinary items are “luxury products” and as such, may be less attractive in the tough times our country is facing, with families cutting costs and looking for a bargain. The truth in the matter is that when the economy is rocky, any specialty retailer must give customers a valued product, where they feel they are getting more for their money. At Oil & Vinegar we strive to ensure our customers appreciate and value our quality offering, which includes product, packaging, and service—plus are completely satisfied with their shopping experience. There are a few factors for specialty retailers to remember in order to keep your customers coming back and attracting new customers as well, especially in this economic climate.

Focus on the Shopping Environment—make sure that the atmosphere that your client enters into is flawless and one where they are stress free and relaxed. Customers will value your service/products more if they envision your store as a clean, fresh and a beautiful setting. As Oil & Vinegar we make sure that we have the freshest ingredients out for sampling, new displays of gift items constantly changing, flavorful tastes and smells engulfing our consumers, and a smiling employee guiding them through an international culinary experience.

Exceptional Customer Service is a Must—in any upscale retail environment, a key part of the experience and value is the service and expertise given. It is even more important to give your consumer the attention they deserve in order to make them feel appreciated and as they have received more for their money. This experience is something that they will think of and remember in the future resulting in repeat visits and recommendation to others.

Reward for Loyalty –instead of dropping price or offering discount promotions to attract existing or new customers, be creative in rewarding customers for their loyalty. Deliver value to that loyal customer through gift with purchase promotions, rewards points programs, exclusive product offers, and other value-added incentives. The Oil & Vinegar “Passionate About Taste” Rewards program includes all of these elements as well as incentives for loyalty members to refer friends and family to shop at the store. All of which delivers added value to the guest experience.

Offer Product Samples—part of our store experience is using each of one’s senses to fully experience Oil & Vinegar. We want to create an interactive, open environment where our customers are able to try our products before their purchase, which will ensure their satisfaction with the product they select. This is also a great way to attract new customers into your location and allow them to experience what your offering is all about and educate your consumers on your product selection and brand. The best way to convince a customer to buy is to let them try and their taste buds will make the decision.

These are the Key Factors for Success in a tough economy and building a customer base that will stay loyal to you, despite the economic conditions. At Oil & Vinegar we are set to ride out any crisis by maintaining a focus on delivering a value proposition which makes us stand out from competition. No matter what business you are involved with, it is essential to prepare for a rocky economic climate and adjust your services accordingly.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Advantages Weigh out Obstacles -Taking an International Concept to the States

While many franchise concepts grow within the Unites States and then expand internationally, not many take the opposite approach, such as we did at Oil & Vinegar. Launching an international concept in the food industry here in the states has its obstacles. US requirements surrounding product packaging and labeling, customs regulations, consumer preferences, and business practices in general are all areas where differences impact how our international model is applied in the US market. Now that most of these hurdles have been cleared, we possess a huge competitive advantage toward dispersing through the U.S.

With the overflowing number of chains flooding our streets, whether it be fast-food, fast-casual, or coffee, burger or sandwich chains –they all resemble each other in being “American” and in many cases, a copy of one another. With Oil & Vinegar, we offer a concept that diverts from our fellow franchised brands, we have a unique place in the market. Customers visit us for an international experience and because they know that we can transport them to a global atmosphere.

Taking a global concept to the states requires important systems to be put in place and ensure that products/services are properly adjusted to meet the consumer, as well as regulatory, requirements. Holidays, consumer behavior and taste, retail competition and other country-specific market factors differ from one country to the next requiring us to adjust our marketing campaigns and product selection/ introductions from our European colleagues. The greater number of formal and informal holidays celebrated here in the USA offer us a significant opportunity to exploit the gift proposition aspect of our business model, but also the home use component. Most holidays are centered around food and gifts, where Oil & Vinegar is a great source for both. Whether it be Independence Day, Mother’s/Father’s Day, Christmas, Hanukkah, or various birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, summer BBQ’s, dinner parties—these are all occasions where gourmet food is a key ingredient.

While our franchise does have challenges being an international concept with products and ingredients from all parts of the world we know that this is what makes us different and stand out among competition. We also have come into a market that is almost vacant and we are happy to be able to fill this sector for our consumers who are excited about delicious spices, herbs, sauces, dips, vegetables, pastas, and products and service that cannot be found anywhere else. This is what makes us unique, as a business owner you should ask yourself what makes you stand out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Insights Into Living the Brand

As a franchisor, it is important to live, breath, and love the brand you are managing and the concept you are offering because the only way to bring on new franchisees that feel that same passion, is to inspire them. As CEO of Oil & Vinegar, I feel particularly lucky to be representing and developing a brand that I feel a strong connection with.

In addition to being CEO, I am also the owner of the Bellevue Washington Oil & Vinegar shop and this gives me a leg up when I am approaching potential franchisees. I have the advantage of understanding what it takes to be successful and the type of franchisee who will succeed as a part of our team. Despite one of the worst economic climates facing our countries, I experienced success as a business owner. Some of the factors that went into my results, were drive, networking, and living the brand in all aspects of my life.

Each franchisee that enters our system must be prepared to work hard and stay driven in order to drive results. Putting in long hours and fully dedicating yourself to growing your business in your community is a mandatory commitment to ensure success.

Networking yourself and your business is one of the most crucial factors into driving consumers to your store and generating revenues. Franchisees starting their business in a market with little or no brand awareness need to make their brand recognizable to their local communities. Joining groups, clubs, and business organizations is a great way to connect with your community and get the needed support to grow within. As a franchisee myself, I have gone through a trial and error process and now I can tell my fellow franchisees what the best strategies are—employ the given system and strategies and results will follow.

Your life is the business. You need to be passionate about it in order to succeed—which will in turn inspire your employees and customers. Taking the time to speak with each customer that comes in and fully let them experience the Oil & Vinegar brand is what makes us stand out above competition. While speaking with consumers, showing passion is a must and this is what will spark your repeat customers that fall in love with the products, service and ultimately the brand, just as you did.

Becoming ingrained in the brand and the business model by starting from the ground level provides me with a high level of credibility with potential franchisees whom are considering joining the Oil & Vinegar family.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Unique Experience and Concept Offers Opportunities for Growth

Despite claims that this is the worst economic climate since the Great Depression, there is still room for growth and opportunities for each and every business willing to make that extra effort to differentiate them self from competition. Consumers are still spending, companies are still growing, and franchisees are still investing in their own business.

we are expanding an International company, Oil & Vinegar, throughout the U.S., I am excited about growing a completely unique concept here in the states, one that will fill an untapped market. Oil & Vinegar is a gourmet, culinary retailer with ingredients and products from the four corners of the globe.

On top of a unique product offering, what really makes us stand out above competition is the personal, unique experience at our stores. When customers enter our stores we want them to feel like guests and fully experience our international culture and flavor. Our on-tap oil’s and vinegar’s are ready for sampling, with our employees’ expert advice, we invite consumers to mix different flavors together to create their perfect mixture combination. Also, our herb blends, appetizers, and sauces are showcased throughout the store for sampling so that when choosing cooking or gift products you can customize it to your preferences.

Prior to joining Oil & Vinegar, I worked at Nike International offices, where I found myself gravitating toward entrepreneur roles such as new positions, new regions for growing Nike’s markets, and new people. After leaving Nike, I finally fulfilled my entrepreneurship desire by becoming a franchisee for Oil & Vinegar, which has given me a wonderful chance to explore the brand and understand it enough to launch its growth here in the states.

Being a part of a one-of-a-kind concept fuels my passion to grow throughout the U.S. and bring a concept that has spread throughout Europe to communities here in America. In order to grow a brand in a shaky economy, one must distinguish themselves from competitors and that is what we are doing here at Oil & Vinegar.