retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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Hi, Kevin Coupe here … and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

I love it when retailers come at competition from different angles. For example…

There is a bar in St. Louis called Open Concept where they don't charge for the drinks. They just charge you for the time that you're there. Ten bucks an hour, for access to an open bar.

Here are the basic rules, as found on its website:

"Yes, you can arrive as late as you want. Yes, your time starts when you get your first drink. Yes, we will issue you a full refund if you miss your booking time. No, we don't sell food. But, you can order in any food you'd like."

That's pretty much it. The bar serves batched cocktails on draught, beer, and wine. The owners say they got the idea from fund raising parties that it used to cater - they seemed to make money, and costs were reduced because they could mix drinks in advance.

This would seem to be a nightmare ready to happen, but St. Louis magazine writes that proprietor Michael Butler has put safety measures in place: "When patrons book their time at Open Concept, they create a profile and are assigned a confirmation code, which is used to place drink orders at the bar. Bartenders will only serve one drink per person at a time, and a proprietary point-of-sale system will track consumption. Butler says the system will scan driver’s licenses and use a patron’s height and weight to assign a number of drinks per hour to keep the bar in compliance with legal limits."

I suspect that Uber and Lyft drivers are going to be hanging out nearby.

The Washington Post has a story about the Wine Attic in wealthy Clifton, Virginia, which the Post writes "provides a window into how a little company can stay alive paying super-close attention to the customer base."

It is owned and run by Juan and Renée Navarro, and Juan says that "we sell ourselves. It’s the Juan and Renée experience. Every second with the customer counts. Once I meet them, I know what every customer wants when they come in. You can’t do that in a high-volume business."

Here's the core rule at the Wine Attic: "One owner always on premises, providing personal service, knowing your customers and enough of a connection to draw customers back." And they've used that knowledge to create a wine club with 80 members that "creates the recurring revenue stream." Indeed the Navarros say that they have 10 customers who "account for a significant chunk of sales."

One advantage the Wine Attic has is that it is not trying to compete with the likes of Total Wine … it is using the "Moneyball" strategy - playing by a different set of rules with different expectations and different benchmarks for success. But successful it is.

Finally … let's talk about Sonos, the high-end speakers and sound system company, which, according to the Verge, in the Netherlands has just launched "a new subscription service that lowers the initial barrier to taking home its costly connected speakers." For the equivalent of about sixteen bucks a month, you can rent speakers on what essentially is a "try before you buy" program … and they even throw in free delivery and installation.

If it works in the Netherlands, there seems every likelihood that it could expand globally. Sonos seems to be doing this as a way of lowering the cost of entry for people looking to improve their sound systems, and even lower the confusion level that often accompanies such systems. At a time when there are plenty of competitors in the space, Sonos is smart to figure out how to reduce the friction between it and its customers.

Reducing friction. Knowing your customers. Changing the rules of engagement. All great ways of coming to market, and all ways that are helping these businesses to differentiate themselves.

And I love it.

That's what is on my mind this morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: