Louisville, Kentucky mainstay Cox’s Spirit Shoppe didn’t start out as a spirit shop at all. What was a single smoke shop in 1995 has grown into 22 wine, beer, and spirits stores located in neighborhoods throughout Louisville, each with an inventory tailored to its particular community of customers.

Rather than specializing in a specific category or type of product, Cox’s Spirit Shoppe stands out because of its business model: With so many locations, it’s big enough to compete with the prices at big box stores, but each shop maintains a local feel. “Our business model is very much convenience-based liquor,” says Mike Fisk, the chief sales and marketing officer for Cox’s Spirit Shoppe. “We really specialize not in just one thing but in the convenience of customers being able to get what they know and want.”

With this convenience-forward mentality, offering alcohol delivery was a natural next step for Cox’s Spirit Shoppe, which became a Drizly partner in April 2020. Though alcohol comprises just about 45 percent of the business for these liquor and smoke shops, Fisk calls beverage alcohol the biggest growth opportunity for the company moving forward.

BevAlc Insights caught up with Fisk to discuss how business has been during Cox’s first year as a Drizly partner, including how sales categories have shifted and the simple, tech-driven technique the team uses to ensure quick and accurate sales.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

BevAlc Insights: What prompted you to become a Drizly partner last year?

Mike Fisk: We had been talking with Drizly, trying to figure out the logistics and financials of delivery because it was important for us to do this while still making a profit. Once we got to the right agreement, we added two or three stores at first; we have more than a dozen working with Drizly now. The pandemic helped push us and got us moving quicker. It’s been a pretty big success so far, allowing us to service customers we weren’t servicing before and protecting our core business model.

How has your business grown since working with Drizly?

It’s definitely grown, Covid has been a part of that as well. It seems like we’re adding more and more, and we had our biggest Drizly week ever over Thanksgiving. Importantly, our delivery business has grown in addition to our overall business growing; we’re not seeing any decline in customer traffic.

How have you gotten the word out about your alcohol delivery capabilities?

We took a well-rounded approach to reach people in many ways. We work with digital marketing agency High10 Digital, and they have done a great job getting the word out about our delivery capabilities through social media campaigns, digital ad campaigns on a few websites, and print ads in the Courier-Journal. We’ve also done some ads that push people to our site to purchase.

What are some techniques that retailers who are looking to increase online sales should consider? 

I didn’t expect to see so many sales of “extras” for delivery, such as candy, snacks, ice, and novelty items — and those are normally pretty high-profit items. I would recommend making sure those types of items are in your Drizly inventory and priced correctly. For instance, sparkling wine, orange juice, and ice are often purchased together.

Have you taken any specific approaches in order to optimize your inventory for success on Drizly?

It’s changed a little bit, but thankfully we had a majority of products already in store. Pay attention to the brands that are being pushed on Drizly; you might want to start carrying them to capture those sales. Some of the things we didn’t sell a lot of before we worked with Drizly are now selling more, like higher end Champagne and tequilas, and some of that has to do with these brands promoting on Drizly.

How can retailers provide an excellent customer experience for those purchasing alcohol for delivery?

That is something we take very seriously, so our staff knows that if anything is wrong or different with the order, the customer needs to be contacted. If something needs to change with the order [if something is out of stock, for instance], we go above and beyond to let the customer know before the order is sent out. And if the wrong bottle is delivered, our employees will immediately run out and get them the right one. That’s always been our priority, both in-store and with delivery.

How do you manage offering alcohol delivery through multiple Cox’s Spirit Shoppe locations?

One of the biggest concerns we had was figuring out who was going to do the physical delivery, because hiring drivers and vehicles adds additional costs. Drizly works with third party delivery partners, that makes things easier because we don’t have to worry about physical delivery. It makes it much easier to deliver out of multiple locations in the metropolitan area.

What are processes a shop can put in place to ensure efficient and accurate order fulfillment and delivery?

We’ve installed iPads in all of our shops to create one central area for Drizly orders. When an order comes in, an alarm goes off, and a shop employee can take that iPad out onto the store floor and pick up whatever is needed without interrupting the other registers.

What is one beverage category that every Drizly retailer should carry?

Hard seltzer. Everyone should have White Claw or Truly in your inventory. And there are many more seltzer brands still coming out, so don’t just carry one or two — carry a plethora of them. People will be looking for a variety of hard seltzers.

What do you expect from consumer alcohol purchasing and delivery in the future?

We don’t see this slowing down at all, and I don’t think it will ever slow down because purchasing habits have fundamentally changed. It’s cheaper and more ideal to have a beer on my porch rather than at a bar, and as restrictions open up, we’ll probably see more house parties at home rather than going out to eat. It has been a whirlwind of business since last March.