The Good Pour: Modern Retail with a Charitable Focus

Beverage alcohol retail is in a constant state of evolution. From products stocked to customer service and merchandising strategies to the physical store layout, everything changes as the years progress. For instance: The industry changed for the better in the ‘90s, when stores nationwide opted for a cleaner, brighter, family-friendly layout, rather than the darker interiors of decades prior. 

Now in our digital age and time of shifting consumer preferences, businesses must adapt again. Millennial and Gen Z shoppers prefer a modern style of stores and brands.

Regardless of age, many people today can feel swept up and overwhelmed in our hyper-partisan, endlessly political world. The opposite of that? People uniting around one thing: It does feel nice to do good.

Thus is the motivation behind The Good Pour. Based in central Florida, this new wine and spirits retail business is built around the idea that people want to give back. How the company goes about this is innovative, and suggestive of how consumers want to be treated by where they shop in 2024. So, too, is The Good Pour on the cutting edge in terms of social media and customer service.

The company operates two stores in Gainesville and Longwood, with a third on the way in College Park. After opening their first location in January 2024, the founders believe they can reach five by the end of this year, with franchisees possibly doubling that number in the near future.

Charity at Checkout

Cofounder Ray Horal can count two decades experience on the distributor/supplier side of the industry. He also launched a vodka brand, GameDay Vodka. Traveling the country for these prior jobs, he saw opportunity in the retail tier while reflecting on the modern consumer. 

Many stores asks shoppers to round up their receipt, but The Good Pour is making the donation — and the customer gets to choose the charity.

“The Good Pour is fueled by a belief that all people want to do good,” Horal explains. “In a world that’s so divided today, the thing that brings people together is that people want to help other people.”

Creating a beverage alcohol retail model around this idea, Horal and the rest of the team placed philanthropy at the forefront. When customers shop at The Good Pour, the store makes a donation to the charity of their choice.

Many stores asks shoppers to round up their receipt, but The Good Pour is making the donation — and the customer gets to choose the charity. What also separates The Good Pour is also the level of consumer ease.

“Digging into charity at checkout, statistics found that only 24% of people actually participate in this form of charitable giving,” Horal says. “And 50% of people, overall, do not enjoy the experience of being asked to donate at checkout. They feel bad when they choose not to give that dollar.”

“I thought, ‘What if we built a platform that doesn’t dip into their pockets but dips into ours?” he adds.

Accordingly, The Good Pour donates a portion of profits from every transaction. But it’s not just a single, rotating, pre-selected charity, as is the traditional standard. Instead, giving people a level of choice, customers can decide where this money goes, picking from more than 100 participating organizations spread across seven main causes.

“These come from charities that we vet,” Horal says. “We made sure that these charities are actually putting our donations towards something good.”

This benevolent setup has attracted attention from causes in need.

“We received 53 new charities requests this week, which we will vet and then add to the platform,” Horal says.

“For us, it’s about having a positive impact,” he adds. “We want to be a platform for positive change.”

Modern Brands, Classic Service

Giving consumers a stress-free donation experience is the backbone of The Good Pour. But the business also excels in other ways, emblematic of modern alcohol retail and its changing customer base.

The Good Pour cofounders Ray and Giuliana Horal.

“Today’s customer is different,” Horal says. “When considering brands, they want the story. They want to support companies that take care of their employees and help the community. And they want more than just shopping. Today’s customers want experiences.”

“At The Good Pour, we love bringing brands to life,” he adds. “Twenty years ago, the saying was, ‘Stack ‘em high and let ‘em fly!’ Today, more consumers are looking for craft brands, smaller brands. They love that mom-and-pop winery in Mendicino, or that little distillery in the hills of Kentucky.”

Horal says the proof of this consumer sentiment shift is in the sales. “Every day, we’re seeing the trends, we’re seeing category leaders not leading, while smaller, esoteric brands are doing very well,” he explains.

Connecting consumers with these lesser-known brands and unique stories requires a lot of staff with extensive knowledge.

“Staff training is huge for us,” Horal says. “We have an online training platform.” The marketing team regularly hosts educational meetings and one-on-ones with employees. Tastings are typical, giving the staff the knowledge needed to connect SKUs with customers.

“We have a lot of staff in our store on the products, getting liquid to lips,” Horal says. With stores that range in size from 3,000 to 9,000 square feet, The Good Pour employees from 12 to 20 people at each location.

“We invest more in feet on the floor than you would normally see” in a beverage alcohol retailer,” Horal says. “We have anywhere from six to ten people on the floor at any given time.”

For a store with a modern focus, this high degree of customer service might seem like a strategy more indicative of past decades.

“A big piece for us, in a world that’s moving more towards AI and self-checkout, we’re going the other way,” Horal says. “We call ourselves ‘The host’ and every customer is a ‘guest’. We treat every guest with a warm smile and polite service.”

Retail Social Media Done Right

For the most part, beverage alcohol retailers are not known for a high degree of success or even fluency with social media. Many stores fall into the trap of simply posting products and prices, highlighting limited deals and seasonal offerings. Unsurprisingly, this kind of vanilla marketing content does not generate many follows or views.

The Good Pour goes in a different direction. Their social media (@goodpourgives) looks more like what you would expect from a successful influencer. Short, informative videos that show how to make a cocktail or pair certain drinks with food. Content that shares an interesting experience, takes viewers on a short tour, or highlights an achievement.

“We’re less about how much something costs, and more about ‘edutainment’,” says VP of marketing Carly Hollowell. “Something like bourbon and cheese pairings, or how to make a cocktail using a specific product.”

One common mistake made on social media by beverage alcohol retail chains is having too many accounts. Here, less is more.

“We take the approach of everything going into one account instead of every store having its own account,” Hollowell says. “We make sure that the message is clean and getting across.”

“We do a lot of video content,” she adds. “We try to optimize our content, like always filming vertically. We focus mainly on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, with Pinterest starting to come on.”

Social media has remained a priority for The Good Pour from the brand’s earliest days. “We built up our social media profiles before the stores even launched,” Hollowell says.

Strategy-wise, it’s important to remember that “social media is a two-way street,” Hollowell says. “It’s not just about, ‘We have this great deal’. It’s more about building value for the viewer.”

In other words, what does a social media user gain by watching your videos? Do they learn how to make a fun cocktail? Or why bourbon pairs well with chocolate? Or how your business — which they support — has donated to a worthwhile cause? Always think about what the user is getting out of social media before posting the content.

It’s critical. In a time when consumers are bombarded with marketing everywhere they look, especially online, successful social media is content that does not feel like advertising. These posts fall into what The Good Pour calls “edutainment.” Content that educates or entertains — preferably both.

The Good Pour also works with social media influencers, bringing in locally based content creators for store openings, wine tastings and cocktail workshops.

Additionally, the store will pay for social media placement with certain content: “Brand awareness as we’re opening new stores,” Hollowell explains, “and when we’re adding on brand features.”

In-store Experiences

Walk around The Good Pour and you will notice that the decor includes more plants than your typical beverage alcohol retailer. This is by design, as they are also SKUs.

Jax Eckenrod, guest experience manager.

“The plants help bring the space to life,” says Hollowell. “And they’re a great product to have. Plants are something that people gift a lot, and gifting is big for us.”

Part of the idea behind stocking plants for sale in a liquor store came from Horal’s industry experiences outside of the retail environment.

“When I was working for a distributor, we would go on these amazing trips to Napa Valley and experience all the wineries, but then we would never bring that back to retail,” he says. “We were just in Napa Valley drinking cab sauv at amazing wineries: how do we bring that experience back to the store?”

Which is to say that the plants help give customers the feeling that they, too, are in a place of natural environment. And, again, it does help that the plants are for sale.

“We’re always trying to give people reasons to come into our store,” Horal says. “We want to win with the customer not just because of price. Customers love the overall experience here. The plants, the decor, getting to taste something — the vibe is just right.”

“We also sell stationery,” he adds. “We sell special cups, glassware and chocolates. We do engravings on bottles. We let people make their own gift boxes with all of these.”

To that end, the stores have a table where customers can create their own gift box or basket. Naturally, this is featured on social media, another unique experience that consumers can enjoy when they visit The Good Pour.

Expanding the Brand

What does the future hold for The Good Pour? Plans for expansion include a number of potential franchisees, plus that third store that they hope to have open before 2024 closes out.

Otherwise, like all businesses — especially newer ones — it’s largely about growing the customer base.

“We work hard to have something for everybody,” Horal says. “We remain big on ‘edutainment’, and digging into cool brands and telling their stories.”

“We like to say that we ‘shock and awe’ customers when they come in, but also ‘surprise and delight them’,” he adds.

Above all, however, is the guiding principle that provided the basis of The Good Pour’s original concept. “We’re trying to do something good,” Horal says. “Our mission is to do good. Helping people is everything for us. This has grown because people have an insatiable appetite to help each other.”

Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics. Reach him at [email protected]. Read his recent pieces, The 2024 Spirits Growth Brands Awards — Top Spirits Trends and How Long Can Tequila’s Growth Last?
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Author: Kyle Swartz