“The annual stew cook off today was very fun. I felt very happy and excited. I felt this way because this was my first time to the annual stew cook off and to be there to help out and support a good cause. Something that could be done better is that everyone should get a little sample of stew instead of waiting for left overs. My favorite part was going to Toys R US booth and getting the Bop It toy. My least favorite part was when the changing room tent was falling down cause of the wind. So everyone had to hold the tent. So that is my experience at the annual stew cook off.”
Being there at the event, I know exactly what Kodie is talking about. She begins where the entrance of the event starts with the Stew Cook Off, walks through the main tent playing the games and visiting booths, and then notices the dressing room debacle at the exit of the event. As adults when writing a blog, we tend to want to edit what we write. But through the voice of an eleven year old, it flows like free writing. I wish more of our youth will take up the pen and paper, speak up, and say something.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who took the time and submitted their Support for SB188 (Senate Bill 188). To our delight, SB188 moved on from the Senate and now we are waiting for the House to approve. Civic Engagement is an important right that many do not take time or opportunity to make our voices heard. I agree that we are just too tired and overworked to read and understand Senate/House Bills. We voted them into office so let them do their job, but just voting for a candidate is not enough. When the Senate and Legislature convene to make laws, it is our civic duty to watch what is being proposed. With social media spreading the word about impending legislation, we have witnessed a widespread support or opposition for certain bills of interest. The public’s involvement in our local government is just as important as shopping local. When we shop local, our local business will pay taxes to our own state. Our state programs benefit from our local businesses. When our own government chooses to take the ‘easy’ route to generate revenue, it creates strain on local businesses to compete. Take the time and get involved because we want to stay in the game.
This is not a blog about customers who believe shop owners are mind readers. But since it’s been brought forth, I’ ll tread lightly. We often forget that we have technology at our convenience. We really don’t need to rely on paper and pen or even more our memory. We have smartphones and we have scrap booking.
I enjoy the rapport when a customer will ask for help about a wine they enjoyed. Some will come prepared with a name and vintage scribbled on a piece of paper. Others will describe the label with photographic detail, but there are a few who will assume I will know exactly what they are talking about by simply saying that ‘it was red’ or the ‘label was white.’ Ask the right questions and eventually their memory will be jogged.
Here’s a tip, take a picture of the wine label and the menu of the establishment that way we’ll know if you dined on island. If you’re at a friend’s house, take a picture with your host holding the bottle at least you’ll know where the party was held. Pictures on a smartphone are the best form of memory recollection at our fingertips.
Another tip for those who just have to have that same vintage ten years past, may have a difficult time finding the same wine with the same vintage. Being stuck on a wine and its vintage because it was the best wine you ever experienced should be cherished as that, a moment in time. Avoid the search and make more unforgettable wine memories.
It began with excitement that the number one beer in the world was coming to the US market but more importantly to Hawaii. The announcement made the beer community in Hawaii anxious for its arrival and thirsty to try this highly coveted beer. Then came the ‘rules and restrictions’ and lack of communication. There’s no proof where the line of communication fell through the cracks but somewhere the stipulation regarding the ‘not-for-profit’ beer was not communicated clearly from the beginning. I may be the only retailer humming and hawing because I’m having a I’m-Just-Saying moment.
I definitely can agree to releasing the beer for sale on December 12 and refrain from mentioning the beer on the social media channels. I can agree to an allocation of two cases and selling them in only in six packs which I would have 8 six packs to sell. I can agree to sell the beer at a set price. However, I could not agree to selling the beer at cost because the Abbey does not want retailers making a profit on their beer. All sales of their will help restore the Abbey’s aging roof. Okay, the Abbey is requesting retailers to support their project to rebuild their roof by selling their number one beer in the world and no one don’t gets a dime for the overhead cost or even a tax write off? Clearly, I missed that memo about creative ways to fund raise.
It’s my third trip to Whisky Fest in San Francisco and every visit is a whole new experience. One may ask “doesn’t it get boring seeing the same distilleries every year?” I respond, “No, it’s like visiting old friends.” If you love whisky, this is why you should go….
Mastery of Whisky for Pernod Ricard, Rick Edwards, describes the Longmorn experience.
The Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival concluded and I was fortunate to escape the store and enjoy a couple of the venues. Besides eating and drinking great food and wine, the highlight would be attending a seminar.
I was lucky to score a ticket to attend the Tale of Three Terroirs: The Vision of Marchesi Antinori. There is serendipitous connection between SWAM, Chateau St. Michelle, and Antinori, but that’s for another story. The line up was a very impressive vertical of four different wineries with four unique vintages ’01, ’05, ’07 and ’08. I just could not imagine the value of Tignello, Guada Al Tasso, Solaia, and Antica Townsend sitting in front of me explained by three Master Sommeliers, Roberto Viernes, Richard Betts and Joseph Spellman. And much to our surprise sitting behind me were California Winemakers: Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, Steve and Chrystal Clifton of Palmina, and Greg Brewer of Brewer Clifton. Being surrounded by experienced professionals who have a deep passion for wine and its history was simply phenomenal.
Master Sommelier, Richard Betts, explained his process of evaluating a wine. Beginning with Tone, he compared it to a music pitch. Is the wine a bass: full and robust, or an alto: harmonizing with balance, or a soprano: singing bright. Then he followed with Texture. Is the wine silky, course, sharp, and so on. And finally Flavor, did you taste clay, rosemary, sage, white pepper, and the infinite flavor profiles. From a retailer’s perspective, I thought his explanation was more tangible to understand and pass on to my customers.
The seminar at the Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival delivered more than I expected. I also heard the Krug Champagne and Mixology Seminars were well worth the ticket price. This was just the 2nd annual event for the Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival. It will only get better with the years to come.
There is no question how important Social Media is regarding customer interaction and potential patrons. Customers who Yelp, Facebook, Tweet, Instagram and Blog are our new generation of mavens. A maven is a “trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others.” Mavens have increased in numbers because of the simplicity in publishing their commentary with little to no cost. The volume of public opinion on the Internet is available by just imputing a few key words in the search.
No secret shopper, acclaimed critic, nor grandiose commercial holds more value than the opinion of your average joe on Yelp. Yet professional critics and business owners have concerns about the point of view of some Yelp reviews. Regardless if the review is a one star or a five star, it is an opinion of a non paid yelper that we do take seriously. The Yelp community have their own recognition of a maven called the Elite. Yelp’s Elite, are chosen (we don’t know what is the criteria to be ‘chosen’ perhaps it’s their large following and amount of reviews) to an elevated and exclusive status.
For real time feedback, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have given mavens and small business a boost in popularity. Instead of talking about each other without knowing about it, now we are included in the conversation. If we don’t chat enough in our store, there’s the Facebook messaging, Twitter mentions, and Instagram notifications to keep our line of communication open 24 hours. Mavens have taken the expression ‘word-of-mouth’ to another level. The reaction is sales, instant but brief notoriety, and ultimately a cult following.
The Blog and/or Video Blog is the new social commercial. Bloggers promote new products, where to purchase, and their personal feedback. Beer bloggers, cigar bloggers, and even Hello Kitty bloggers have a found connection to our store. This type of networking filters maven’s interests. A maven can’t be an expert on everything but can influence the market with a niche expertise. Many of these blogs have a direct effect on consumer patronage. Since we also subscribe to a forum of common interests, we can immediately react to a maven’s highlight, educate ourselves, and fulfill a demand.
Information is so important to the consumer. No amount of traditional education can prepare you for the social demands consumers are expecting especially in the retail market. Once a product can sell itself, but to a maven, they want to know what other products are comparable, what’s the story behind it, and how to present it in a social setting. At least if we are stumped on question, there’s always Google at our fingertips.
Monday, June 11, was SWAM’s first World of Whisky event beginning the journey in Japan. Although we were not in the country of Japan, we had their finest whiskies. This tasting was very special to me because over the years we began collecting Japanese whiskies. Friends would travel to Japan and asked if there was anything we wanted. Of course we seized the opportunity to have them bring back Hibikis and Nikkas. The collection grew enough that it was about time to share. Perhaps the journey should have began where ‘whisky’ was invented, nevertheless, we have been doing Scotch tastings for awhile and taking this detour would be a nice beginning from the obvious. Here’s the line-up.
Nikka Gold and Gold: We prepared it Manhattan style. It was a lot more smokier and very savory. I’m beginning to prefer this style of flavor over the traditional Manhattan. Paired with a Banya Cauda Mousse or anchovy mousse with tempura and fresh vegetables. The smokey, sweet manhattan matched well with the saltiness of the Banya Cauda.
2- 1 1/4oz. Nikka Gold and Gold
1- 1 oz. Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth
dash of Fees Bros. Aromatic Bitters
Stir in ice, strain into a martini glass garnished with a maraschino cherry
Chichibu ‘Ichiro’s First’ 3 year Single Malt: At 61% ABV, taking it neat was too ‘hot’ to appreciate. After a couple drops of water, the whisky opened up and shined..brillantly. Whisky Advocate named this whisky Japanese Whisky of the Year in 2012. The uniqueness about the Chichibu was the aroma of sandlewood. The sandlewood profile came from fermenting the malt in mizunara, Japanese oak, vats. For a young whisky it had viscosity and richness. We paired this with the Bain and Kumamoto oysters. After gobbling up the delicious and sweet oysters, a nice treat was adding a little Chichibu into the oyster shell and tossing it back to help cleanse the palate.
Suntory Hakushu 12 year Single Malt: Making it’s debut in the Hawaii market, we were very excited to try the Hakushu. Slightly smokey aroma but not as earthy as the Nikka. There was lightness about the 1 2 year old. It was subtle in flavor. Paired with a Smoked Chicken Hash and Hamakua Caprese Salad with a cherry balsamic vinaigrette, the salad kicked up the Hakushu’s flavor with more acidity.
Suntory Yamazaki 18 year Single Malt: The dark caramel color, sweet butterscotch on the nose, and the Yamazaki 18 just glided on the palate. Silky, Silky, Silky. Paired with the Pan Seared Scallop with a Hibiki 21 glaze and a Braised Pork Belly with Watercress Waldorf Salad. This pairing done me in! The Yamazaki 18 with the Braised Pork Belly was absolutely sinful! It felt sooo wrong eating all that sticky sweet gelatinous fat and washing it down with the 18 year. The Yamazaki cut the pork fat in to butter. OH…it was incredible.
Suntory Hibiki 30 year Blended: Not available in the United States. Four years ago, we bought this Hibiki 30 for around $500/600 US dollars. Currently 2012, the bottle is now priced at $1000 US Dollars. Smooth and rich with figs and cocoa. This whisky was paired with Hacho Misa Glazed Lamb with Daikon and Wild Mushroom Gratin. Frankly, I couldn’t help but take two bites out of the perfectly cooked dish and called it quits. I was full to the gills! The lamb was tender and the 30 year added a more smokier finish to the lamb. I didn’t know which one to continue on further. I chose the whisky and took home the lamb.
Nikka Taketsuru 17 year Pure Malt: A generous gesture from one of our guests, Mika Hill. She offered her bottle for the dessert course. The Dark Chocolate Pot de Creme with Fig Jam was a home run with the Nikka 17 year. The 17 year has a faint nutty and chocolate flavor but paired with the pot de creme enhanced the velvetly chocolate notes. It was a pleasant surprise to have a whisky unexpectedly paired with the dessert finale.
Kyle Matsumoto and his team at Off the Wall Restaurant did a magnificent job pairing Japanese whisky with their style of food. What an incredible evening to start our journey. It will be challenge to find another great food pairing for our next destination….. Scotland!
Once again SWAM is disappointed with Crown XR. The ‘extremely limited,’ ‘ ‘rarest whiskey,’ and ‘numbered’ are all bullet points in the press releases about Crown Royal XR. Since 2006, that’s the sales pitch we’ve been echoing and promoting that Crown XR will run out soon. It’s 2012, how limited is a bottle supposed to be after 6 years on the market?
When Crown XR was first released SWAM was selling a bottle for $215, give or take. We sold a lot of bottles at that price. Suddenly the bigger retailers started to sell the XR and undercut us by $100, give or take. We wanted to know how can they sell Crown XR at that price? As a matter of fact, corporate giant Diageo, owner of Crown Royal, decided to discount the cost of Crown XR because it ‘was not moving fast enough.’ When SWAM bought in to the price of Crown XR, it was at top dollar. Then Diageo discounted the bottles and we were stuck with an overpriced XR. We were so upset and disgusted when the words ‘CROWN XR’ were uttered. We had no choice but to pull Crown XR off the shelf until the discounted price at other retailers were sold out.
By late 2011, the word was out that Crown XR was not coming back to Hawaii. The word spread like wildfire. We were getting calls every week about the Crown XR. All we can say was if you can find it, buy it. We probably contributed to the hype to hunt. Well guess what ladies and gentlemen, Crown XR has made it’s way back to Hawaii. Do we look stupid? Are we just salesmen making a sale? Honestly, we are all of the above. My sincerest apologies if we lead you to believe the hype. We cannot help to be passionate about we do. Our advice is to listen with caution and do the research aside from going to all retailers and bars in the area and asking the same question. In retrospect, my mom advised me not to give in the hype and who is the wiser?
I may get a some backlash on this blog especially when talking about customers but I think it’s worth pointing out. There are days when a customer will browse through the store and openly comment to me about our prices. Comments like: “I’ve seen this at XYZ for five bucks less!” or “I can get this at XYZ for A LOT CHEAPER.” We have been criticized for having higher prices than other retailers especially when products go on ‘sale.’ As a human being, I do feel a sting when comments like these are said to me. I’m not sure how to respond without being defensive. I agree that no one likes to feel they are getting ripped off. In 425 words or less, is my explanation for our higher but FAIR prices.
There is a downside to getting the volume discount price from the distributor. The keyword is VOLUME. We don’t buy in volume because it means commitment to storage space, minimizing ‘facings’ or number of unique products, being stuck with an overexposed product, and making our business less nimble to move on current trends and demand. If we had to buy 10 cases of blah blah just to get the discounted price, then we have to get it out the store quickly before the next hot product comes which means a ‘sale!’ At SWAM, we will rarely discount items at 50% off. Why? because we don’t normally mark anything up over 50%. In the clothing world, you can expect to sell a t-shirt 75% over cost and still maintain customer loyalty. If I priced Crown Royal at 75% over cost, I can assure you I will not be in business very long. Keeping in line with competitive pricing is relative to how low you want your profit margin to be. I’ve recently attended a Johnny Cupcake seminar and he made a great point about ‘sales’ and markdowns. When we continue to discount 20 to 50% off the retail price, we train our customers to shop only for discounts and therefore decreasing the value of the store’s image. We have recognized that having a ‘sale’ is not always good thing at SWAM. Regular customers will often question why an item is discounted. They will ask ‘Is it junk, Jill?’ or ‘Is it old?’ We appreciate that customers hold us to a higher standard that we are capable to sell what we have and bring in new items consistently. And about getting ripped off at SWAM, no I don’t drive new Mercedes every year.
For an interesting read, check out this book…
Feb 8, 2012 Update: Just received the February Hawaii Beverage Guide which coincidentally shares a story called “Small is Beautiful” by Brandy Rand