Wine business co-owner shares issues
First, I wish to thank everyone in Farragut that been so nice and supportive to David, myself and our employees while we go through a very difficult time. Your kindness has been the only light at the end of a very hostile, dark tunnel.
To the rest of you, this letter is directed to you.
We lost an immediate 30 percent of our sales when wine went into grocery stores. (Some of you have said “they will blame wine in grocery stores.” Yes, we are blaming that because before that we were growing larger every year.) How would you manage if you lost 30 percent of your income over a very brief period of time, almost overnight?
What many of you do not understand is (1) the State dictates to us our sales pricing, so everyone is on an even ground. We cannot sell below a certain price and our markups are very low; unlike the normal retail store. (2) Since the markup on spirits is kept extremely low, stores depend on wine to make the money in order to purchase the spirits. When wine sales are down, profit is down, thus spirits buying capability is down. (3) We have been caught in this horrible catch 22 scenario. Need money to buy and need product to sell to have the money to buy.
Other stores are facing the same situation as we have been (several other stores in the local market are for sale) but, they have a huge advantage over us. The size of our store is a detriment. Even when we had our shelves very full and were out of a few things we still look sparse, compared to the same inventory in the other stores, and we had complaints when we did not have everything every time someone came in. That is just typical retail.
We tried to be fair and good to customers. We offered an extra discount for frequent customers and we priced matched all competitors within 100 mile radius. Not many stores did this. Perhaps we should not have done this. It apparently backfired on us because we lost profits and when we stopped price matching in order to make money for purchases, we were openly, verbally criticized.
Since we initially lost 30 percent of our business and then it went up to 40 percent and 50 percent, our shelves have become less full. And the complaints and downright anger of customers has increased tremendously. Customers have yelled angry verbiage at our employees, called the store worthless, called employees hateful names, cussed at them, slammed buggies, just to name a small sample of their negative actions.
It is not the employees fault! Why be so angry and disrespectful over a bottle of vodka or a box of wine? Is your life that miserable that you have to show your strength by insulting or hurting someone else?
Then the cyber bullying started.
One customer made a negative comment about the store on Nextdoor.com and what followed were angry, hurtful, hateful comments. One such comment was “LOL! When they close it will just be a good opportunity to buy things at a cheap price”. Really? It is not a laughing matter to us.
This store has been our liveli- hood for 10 years and was to be our future and we have made sacrifices to grow this store to be one that the Town of Farragut, and residents, deserve. We tried to promote this Town for new businesses, create and work hard on Town events and be good responsible citizens. Boy, my thoughts on that have certainly changed during the last month and more so in the last two weeks with comments on Nextdoor.com. One commentator said she was not shopping here because we were active with the FBA, a volunteer organization working for the betterment and growth of the Town. What, we are being punished because we support our town? [She also stated another reason was because we fought against wine in grocery stores. Duh? Yes, because it was going to affect our livelihood. Only one retail store in the state was in favor of it and that store is now up for sale].
Instead of trying to show us support and patience while we tried to figure out a way not to close the store, we have been fiercely attacked and the growth of the attacks is a result of social media. Our employees cannot go grocery shopping, or out to eat, without being yelled at and questioned. Again, they have nothing to do with this, so they should be left alone. It is their jobs and futures on the line also. I always thought cyber bullying was only done by kids. Now I know where kids get the idea, from their parents and other adults.
We have been residents of Farragut for 30 years and there are truly some wonderful people in Farragut and it is so sad that the negative voices are so much louder than the positive ones. Right now I am extremely embarrassed that so many of the residents of this Town are so happy to kick a fellow resident, and small business owner, when they are down.
I sincerely hope when other small businesses are struggling, and working hard to survive, that you choose the kindness path and support them, not treat them so unkind and harshly.
Thank you for your time.
Co-Owner Farragut Wine & Spirits