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By Julie Beals, Editor of Fresh Cup
This article first appeared in the August 2008 Issue of Fresh Cup.
The following excerpts apply to The Tea Smith. You can read the full article below the excerpts.
... Like wardrobe choices, you vie with incoming and outgoing trends in your business, where it's not just your friends you're trying to impress. How can you stay relevant without alienating core customers? "These are great questions that a retailer should be asking themselves each and every day, not just when business threatens to soften," says Tim Smith, co-owner of The Tea Smith in Omaha, Neb. Smith talks to his customers to find out why they frequent his store and not others. Recently, the landlord of one of his shops approached him about adding coffee to the menu. "I figured that as I enjoy coffee, we could add a line of quality coffee and espresso drinks, which would attract customers who might not give a tea store a try." Fortunately, Smith ran a survey in his stores to get feedback on the idea from customers. "I knew we would have some push back from customers that really dislike coffee. Surprisingly, our overall response was running 3:1 against adding coffee." With teahouses being less common than coffeehouses, Tea Smith customers saw extra value in sticking strictly with tea. "We were looking at adding a line to attract more loyal customers, and found that we risked losing our identity, and being perceived as selling out just to survive," says Smith. "Adding coffee to a tea store is not a radical concept, but it does emphasize that when trying new paths, you must review the decision in light of how they reflect on your core values, and how they impact the important segments of your customer base." ...
Altering your core product is risky business, and Coke and Starbucks may have gone wrong by comparing themselves to competitors too directly, rather than sticking to their strengths while adding new products to support them. "We add products that are relevant to our store, as well as to the values and lifestyles of our customers," says Smith. One of The Tea Smith's largest customer groups is women with young children. "When they came in, mom had plenty of things to choose from but kids were bored. We added popsicles made with tea and juice, and now kids ask their parents to take them to The Tea Smith." ...
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