Business has slowed a bit at Fridley’s two municipal liquor stores.
Sales slipped from $4.9 million in 2011 to $4.3 million last year. A messy remodel may have been a factor. Stiff competition from new warehouse-style liquor stores in the region, along with a cluster of city-run liquor stores in the north metro, has contributed to slumping sales, a city official says.
Now, Fridley is trying to better tap the market.
The city is in the midst of a rebranding campaign to boost sales. The remodel of the main store at 248 57th Av. NE. is nearly done, giving it a more upscale feel. The city has taken down the neon beer signs and added a tasting bar area and more wine and spirits to the selection. It started a monthly tasting club, which already has a 200-member e-mail list. And it’s surveying customers and has spent $8,400 to hire an outside consultant to help with the effort.
“We are looking to rebrand and position ourselves better,” said Fridley Finance Director Darin Nelson. “It’s a fresh start and an opportunity to recapture our lost sales from years ago.”
Sales were booming at Fridley’s municipal liquor stores a decade ago. They started to slip a few years back when the Gander Mountain outlet next to the main liquor store closed. Many shoppers who went to Gander Mountain for fishing and sports gear would then stop by Fridley Liquor to top off their cooler, Nelson said.
“When Gander Mountain went, our sales dropped 20 percent the next day,” he said.
Then, an entire shopping mall, which includes Cub Foods, underwent renovations. That temporarily hindered access.
Emerging competition, including a Total Wine store that just opened in Roseville, also presents a challenge.
Lower sales means less money for city coffers. In 2013, the city deposited $250,000 in liquor store profits into its general fund, down from $350,000 in 2011 and highs of $500,000 a few years back.
The newly renovated store is the fresh palette needed to rebrand the store, Nelson said. The 10,400-square-foot space includes higher ceilings, more light and a more appealing entry. It feels more upscale and sophisticated and less college-kegger, Nelson said.
Fridley has hired Delaney Consulting, which helped Edina improve its municipal store. The consulting firm has employed secret shoppers and will help Fridley craft its product list and a new logo.
Residents are also asked to fill out an online survey about their shopping habits. A link to the survey can be found at http://www.ci.fridley.mn.us/
“It’s been stagnant for 20 years. We need to freshen it up,” Nelson said.