What Hunterdon Can Do For You – by Guy Potts

In 2008 I was hired to handle Cape May, Atlantic and Ocean County. Being from Cape May County, I realized the ups and downs of having a very seasonal territory. Basically, it’s super busy in the spring and summer and ridiculously slow in the fall and winter. Trying to get placements within a four to five month window can be challenging, especially when the other guys are helping out businesses left and right with little “perks”. As challenging as it can be, the biggest challenge is getting someone on board with what you’re presenting to them, and working for Hunterdon you run into all different types of people. Some get the fact that craft beer isn’t a fad and some still don’t realize how valuable selling craft beer can be to their establishment. When I first started with the company, I had accounts who didn’t want everything I recommended, and then there were some who didn’t even want me in their store. One of the hardest things to do with this job is keep coming back to see people even if they don’t want anything to do with you.

For the first two years with Hunterdon, I covered Cape May to Long Beach Island. I have many accounts that are seasonal, so my summers are very busy. One of the accounts really didn‘t want to handle a lot of SKUs so they kept it very basic when it came to craft beer. They would literally order three to five different items and not take any suggestions. Cue: “Change, we fear change” from Wayne’s World. Every other week, if I was lucky, this account would place their minimum order and that would be the end of the exchange. This particular account was unhappy based on previous history that unfortunately had nothing to do with me, but I walked into that situation. At one point, they were even thinking of cutting ties completely with Hunterdon, but luckily one of the managers knew that was not an option. So after two years of minimum orders and nothing new going into the store, I thought that was just how this account would be for the rest of the time I handled them. Little did I know there was going to be some expansions happening that would change their attitude as well as their position on craft beer.

I remember the day I got the call that they needed me to come in and talk about possibly adding some new items. I couldn’t believe it! When I walked into the account I noticed some new cooler doors that had empty speed racks just waiting for craft beer to shine. After talking with them I had added fifteen to twenty new breweries and about sixty new SKU s. Once the beer hit the shelves it was as though they had become a “destination” store overnight. Even the ownership couldn’t believe what was happening! An account that had been steady with minimum orders had turned into a large order account in a matter of weeks. Crazy!

Over the next year or so their business kept building and building, eventually turning that account into one of my top five accounts serviced. All of the sudden an account that had nothing, had everything and wanted more. I was ready to make that happen. After two years of having a minimal selection of Hunterdon items, the account had tripled their sales in a year.

After their first year of really getting into craft beer they noticed something. People wanted craft beer! Soon enough, in addition to their new cooler doors being filled with craft beer, they started case-stacking, advertising on their marquee and even getting involved with pre-sales and pallet drops. They were hooked. Every week it seemed as though there was another item that they couldn’t believe had sold out. Life was finally good with this account and I was enjoying the enthusiasm by not only the employees, but also ownership. Limited items and more seasonal items were finding their way onto the account’s shelves and this was helping the business grow not only with Hunterdon, but with their customer base too. I started getting requests for kegs and other items that would’ve never been from the account in previous years. In a matter of two years, this account, who in the past barely wanted anything to do with craft beer, had become an account that couldn’t stop growing. Now, who knows where the ceiling is for them.

With 2012 coming to a close, I am happy to say that this account, that was very limited in business with Hunterdon in the past, has now turned into a “type-A” account. They have shot past some accounts that have been dealing with Hunterdon long before I ever started with the company and don’t seem to be slowing down. With their sales growth climbing each year, the sky’s the limit. And, with the way Hunterdon keeps expanding it looks like the clouds will be harder to reach.

Working for Hunterdon has shown me how people can be stuck in their ways, as well as how some people can see a good idea and run with it. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. All in all, selling craft beer is a labor of love and who doesn’t like to labor with a beer in their hand?

Cheers!

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