COOL SPRINGS WINES & SPIRITS HONORED AMONGST NATION’S TOP RETAILERS
Owner James ‘Woody’ Woodard: ‘We are prepared for wine in grocery stores’;
accepts Market Watch Best Merchandising Award at ceremony in New York
December 15, 2014 – Franklin, TN . . . . . . . . James “Woody” Woodard, owner of Franklin-based Cool Springs Wines & Spirits, has been named the 2014 Retailer of the Year for Best Merchandising and was honored amongst Market Watch Magazine’s most successful national retailers during a ceremony at the St. Regis Hotel in New York earlier this year. The magazine, published by M. Shanken Communications (Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado, Whisky Advocate), also honored the market’s hottest brands and executives at the annual black-tie event.
Woodard, who accepted the award on behalf of his wife and co-owner Jackie, founded Cool Springs Wines & Spirits, located at 1935 Mallory Lane, in 1995. Woodard and the business, also honored in 2006, earned a 5-page feature in the current issue of Market Watch.
“Many people get into this business because they have a love for wine,” Woodard says, “But my interest came from a belief that a wine and spirits store could be a great business. While the climate has changed with the new Wine in Grocery Stores law, we know our store is well-positioned for continued growth and to provide the personal customer service that grocery stores are not equipped to offer.”
Referencing the 2014 Tennessee legislation that allows grocery stores to begin offering wine in July 2016, Woodard said: “We honestly don’t expect our sales to go down when the new law takes effect. We saw it coming and are prepared.”
That preparation – along with substantial year-over-year average sales growth – caught the attention of Market Watch, a leading publication for market intelligence on spirits, wine and beer. Also notable is the store’s commitment to giving back to its community. In 2005, Cool Springs Wines & Spirits established the Franklin Wine Festival, an annual event held at the Factory in Franklin, that has raised more than $1.2 million for Big Brother Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee. One of the largest wine events in the Southeast, the festival gained the sponsorship support of several mid-state companies, including Nissan.
While his gentle and amicable nature may suggest otherwise, Woodard is a self-professed aggressive businessman. After spending two decades as a senior manager and chief financial officer for Tom James, a men’s clothing company with headquarter in Williamson County, Woodard recalls a time when Mallory Lane was just a little pass-through road on his way to work. “Then one day I saw a sign that said ‘Coming Soon – Kroger.’ That was the spark.”
The Woodards first launched Cool Springs Wines & Spirits in a 6,750-square-foot space next to the Kroger grocery store located on Mallory Lane near Cool Springs Galleria. In 2000, they acquired a parcel of land across the street and then built the shopping center that their store and several other tenants occupy today, upping the store’s footprint to 21,000 square feet of combined retail and warehouse space.
Since becoming the first liquor retailer in the Cool Springs area nearly 20 years ago, the Woodards have maintained leadership in the market despite plenty of new competition. Even with five other liquor stores now operating within a 5-mile radius, Cool Springs Wines & Spirits continues to see steady growth, despite the economic challenges over the last two decades , which resulted in several other mom and pop shops closing their doors.
“We’ve entered a new era,” says Woodard in a very upbeat manner. “The new laws enable us to sell low-gravity beer and other items [at Cool Springs Wines & Spirits], so we are methodically merging our other store, Woody’s Smokes & Brews, to offer our customers an even better shopping experience.”
Woody’s Smokes & Brews, located in the Cool Springs Complex directly behind Cool Springs Wines & Spirits, was established shortly after the wine store. The intimate shop stocks a vast selection of cigars, tobacco, e-cigs, pipes and low-gravity beer. An outside patio offers curb-appeal while the state-of-the-art walk-in humidor and nearby growler station (which is expanding to 32 taps) are the largest customer draws. At the time the store first opened, Tennessee law prohibited the sale of products with less than 6.2% alcohol content in a store licensed to sell wine and spirits. This exclusion prompted Woodard to open Woody’s in order to provide a more complete shopping experience. An additional perk was the upstairs smoking lounge and tasting room, which offered customers an opportunity to try products, which was also prohibited at a wine store.
“While other stores are just now beginning to experiment with ways to take advantage of the new law, we have 20-years of analytics and sales tracking to help forecast how this market will react to the sale of these items,” Woodard says.
Cool Springs Wines & Spirits is notably one of the stores that did not rush to add products in light of the new state legislation.
“We expanded our beer selection to include low-gravity offerings, however, we are committed to an entirely different strategy than most of our competitors, “ Woodard explains. “We never back down from a challenge. We think and buy big to better serve our customers. That’s how we guarantee lowest prices and how we are able to offer more SKUs (6,500 products) than anyone else in the area. We truly earned these Market Watch Leader accolades. “
In addition to their pricing and inventory strategies, the Woodards cited Cool Springs Wins & Spirits’ reputation for excellent customer service and an inviting atmosphere as reasons for their success.
“The layout of the store is well thought out,” says Jackie, who designed the store specifically with female customers in mind. Rather than high metal shelving found at many big box outlets of a similar size, their displays are on X-shaped custom-made wood racks they call “pods.” At the center of each pod is a replica of an old-fashioned streetlight with accompanying signage, such as Cabernet Circle or Chardonnay Way. From the high ceiling hangs an assortment of whimsical, hand-made dolls and creatures from Katherine’s Collection.
At the front, near the registers, shoppers will find a gated play area for children. The wide aisles are easy to navigate and the racks were purposely designed to be lower than eye level, enabling easy navigation, in addition to theft deterrence.
Another noteworthy component of the Woodards’ business strategy is their commitment to stocking high-end, highly rated, and very eclectic wines.
“Unlike many local stores, wine accounts for 60% of our sales. I can guarantee you that the majority of those revenues are not from wines that will be available in grocery stores,” said Woodard. “Our customers expect more than that. They count on our sales team to hand-sell the wines, especially as vintages change and new offerings come to market.”
Woodard credits his sales and purchasing staff for the store’s success. “Our employees really know this market, and they buy products that we know our customers will enjoy… at prices and an unequivocal selection that will keep them coming back.”
Woodard went on to say that General Manager Penny Rose Floyd, who has worked at Cool Springs Wines & Spirits for 15 years, “has the respect of every wholesaler in our market.”
“The best teams have skilled and talented people at all positions,” Woodard told Market Watch. “While I may be the one who stood on stage to accept this great Market Watch Leader honor, I did it on behalf of my wife, our incredible staff, our marketing agency, our suppliers and the wholesalers in this market. This recognition really puts Middle Tennessee on the map in our industry. I am very proud of how far we have come, and even more excited about where we are going.”