With Limited Shelf Space, Selecting the Right Inventory is Key

RTD supplier Southern Champion has gotten innovative with in-store storage and display solutions.

May 16, 2024

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With limited shelf space posing a challenge for many retailers, having the right inventory of items that sell well is crucial.

“It is imperative that retailers have really strategic space and category management, and make sure that they have the best SKUs on the shelves—especially in the cold box,” said Tracy Frisbie, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Southern Champion, a ready-to-drink cocktail manufacturer.

The RTD segment is growing at 63.5% (over the last 52 weeks ending February 24), according to data from Nielsen, as consumers look for products that combine convenience and value in one drink.

BuzzBallz, a ready-to-drink cocktail developed by Southern Champion, has the highest sales among spirit-based RTD drinks, and has a repeat purchase rate of 61%—one of the highest in the channel, according to Frisbie.

“When convenience retailers consider their limited space in-store, they need to make the right inventory decisions based on data—actually ask suppliers for data and see what items have the best sales velocity, because that’s where you’re going to make your dollars,” she said. “You don’t want to give your precious space to the wrong SKUs, because all you’re doing is limiting your sales.”

And within stores’ limited floor space, finding optimal displays is key for boosting sales.

When the female-founded Southern Champion first launched over 10 years ago, it was one of the first and only players in the RTD cocktail game. It had to be “street-level scrappy,” as Frisbie put it, to eke its way into the industry, but that led to innovations in packaging and small-space display solutions that have proved to have long term success.

“We developed a lot of key merchandising pieces, like cold box suction cup racks, countertop racks, and some simple one-tile footprint racks for the warm space, and those things we used early on have stuck and are now used throughout the industry,” said Frisbie.

Southern Champion is “always looking for solutions to help our operators,” said Tia Wines, director of marketing at Southern Champion. The supplier recently released a new four-pack case of BuzzBallz that is stackable, “so it’s shelf friendly. We also have new pack sizes coming out to accommodate stores in states where they can’t sell our 15% ABV in single-serve.”

As a vertically integrated company that does almost everything in-house, one of Southern Champion’s strengths is that it can quickly respond to new trends and consumer demand, or evolving challenges that retailers are having with their merchandise.

“We're nimble. We don't have a lot of red tape when it comes to making decisions,” said Frisbie. “It's easy for us to quickly get the right people in the room, use the group expertise to come to the right decisions, and then make things happen very quickly.”

This is part two of a two-part series on Southern Champion. Read part one. Learn more about Southern Champion here.