Confessions of a Retail Buyer: 31Dover

30th October, 2015 by Melita Kiely

Wendy Tsui, spirits buyer and merchandiser for 31Dover, reflects all things online, from monthly “casting” calls for new products to weekly specials and team tastings.


Wendy Tsui is the spirits buyer and merchandiser for 31Dover

Price, margin and breadth of distribution are essential business considerations, but when it comes to selecting something new, what we are looking for are exciting products that have a story to tell. We have a really broad range of spirits across all categories, price points and flavour profiles to ensure there is always something unique and of interest to our customers.

All of our products are tasted by the entire team at our tasting sessions so everyone across the business has first hand knowledge of the product and are able to comment and advise customers accordingly.

We hold monthly “casting” calls for new products where we taste and consider a product and how it would fit within our existing range. We hold a highly curated range and so products need to have a identifiable USP – whether price, quality, provenance, taste, bottle or appeal – to be considered. Brand
owners should contact me with product
 details, pricing and opportunity.

Crystal Head still leads the way for us in the vodka category; its unique bottle has a distinct online appeal and looks amazing on the site.

Throughout the year we see consistent sales across all categories. Obviously holiday season peaks with gifting ideas for both personal and corporate reasons, but our premium gift offering keeps this fairly constant throughout the year.

As we generate traction online our marketing voice is being heard more, so weekly specials and blog posts also tend to have a strong influence on what sells best. We like to try and hero all the categories, brands and products throughout the course of the year.

An e-shop allows us the luxury of offering a wider range of accessible spirits that would not otherwise be available in-store. More importantly, it gives us the platform to showcase the product in its best light, whether through images, brand history or a detailed description. Traditional retail outlets simply don’t have the space to display all of that information.

Ultimately consumers are looking for unique products that they can discover online plus a value proposition, all within a sphere of confidence knowing that their delivery will be hassle free and on time. We offer a price-match policy to ensure our customers are getting the best price online. Through 31Dover we are also able to recommend to customers based on their past purchases and preferences.

Controlling our stock buys has to be the most challenging part of what I do; there is so much out there that I’d love to buy in and offer our customers. My task is managing the rest of the team’s desire to bring in anything and everything they see or taste. That’s where the curating process is key to developing an appealing offering and maintaining controls to manage stock, all the while keeping prices competitive.

Tasting the products and meeting suppliers – be they large or small – is definitely the most exciting part of my job. The people we work with have great passion for their products, and it’s incredibly rewarding when we finally get their spirits out there to a new and wider market than they would otherwise be able to reach.

New hybrid flavours and interesting formats like premium pre- mixed cocktails, which are really booming right now, are two trends that are certainly grabbing my attention currently. We’ve recently seen real growth in products from King Bloom cocktails-in-a-jar and other similar brands.

Our customers vary from those passionate about their drinks or the homebuyer replenishing their bar, to the person looking for a unique present and the host or hostess throwing a dinner party at home.

We basically cater for anyone who is time poor but looking for high quality, innovative products that are available at the best prices and can be delivered stress- free to their door the following day.

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