Should You Sell Products In Your Coffee Shop?

(mugs, music CDs, coffee machines, etc.)

The first part of the answer to this question is going to come from you. It’s up to you and your vision for your business’ brand, your financial situation, and so forth if you want to invest in, design, stock and promote retail items.

Retail items offer several advantages to your business. They reinforce your brand, giving your loyal and enthusiastic customers the opportunity to help promote it even when they leave your premises. They keep your brand memorable, whether to your regulars or the tourist who happens upon your shop and needs a better way to remember it than a flimsy old business card. And it adds revenue options.

Boosting your revenue is always a sound strategy. Retail items, especially the non-degradable kind, are an easy and fun way to do this.

You can invest in one or two coffee machines or pour-over systems; you only have to invest in new ones if and when they sell. If one of your retail choices is a brewing system, it is best to sell ones that you use in-shop at least some of the time. If someone is going to invest in an at-home brewing system that isn’t an auto-drip machine, they’re either going to do it because they’ve seen it used by your baristas or they’re going to want a demonstration on how to use it, especially if it is an unfamiliar system like Chemex or an Aeropress. Your baristas should be able to explain or demonstrate in order to finalize the sale.

If you sell brewing systems, you’ll want to sell the filters and any other necessities for operating the system. You’ll also want to have your employees be knowledgeable about which of your coffees work best in each system, like if a light roast would be better featured, for example.

In that same vein, you can sell the mugs and dishware you utilize in your shop, or you can sell mugs, dishware, and thermoses with your company’s brand on them. These are both strategies ways to make your shop memorable; they can take your brand home with them. This reinforces their connection to your brand and your company, bolstering positive associations and their memory. It also gives them the opportunity to say to their friends and family “I got that mug at this awesome coffee shop you should go to!”

You can take this brand promotion even further, to the level of Nike or Gap, and put your logo or name on t-shirts, hats, bags and more, expand the experience for your customers, be creating a cult-ish connection, where the brand is more than coffee, it becomes a community in itself.

And, of course, if you offer no other retail items, you should offer your coffees. If you’re a roaster, that’s a given; but, even so, offering 1 and .5 pound bags for individual customers is an excellent revenue and brand boost. If it’s financially feasible, offering smaller batches of your coffee gives your customers the opportunity to extend the experience of your coffee beyond your hours of operation as well as giving them the chance to test your blends at home before they will commit to a larger batch.

Whatever you decide, remember that retail is an opportunity to extend the coffee shop experience into your customers’ homes and it is a way to keep your brand memorable and have it promote itself to people who may not otherwise stumble upon it, or who were uncertain. Almost nothing makes you want to try something more than your best friend raving about it and nothing makes you remember that thing you wanted to try more than a visual cue like a branded coffee mug!

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22 Comments

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  1. I think selling a few products related to your brand in a coffee shop is a good idea, but not too much. If I see too many products in a coffee shop, it instantly associates me to a store, not a coffee shop. In my opinion, it loses the vibe. But coffee cups and bags of coffee of my favorite brands are never too much ^-^

  2. I like the idea of selling products in your coffee shops. Products like coffee mugs and thermoses with company’s name and logo. There are some people who love collecting things that came from their favorite brands or companies.

  3. The idea of selling mugs, dishware, and thermoses with a company’s brand on them is very excellent!
    They can put a pic of any lovely celebrity, for example, Clear men shampoo offered a free branded mug with a picture of C.Ronaldo on it. I liked the combination tremendously.

  4. One of my rituals whenever I fly abroad is definitely finding new mugs for my collection. I am a mug-collector and I have more than a few of them from various coffee shops around the world. It’s some kind of a souvenir for me, I enjoy taking them home and reminding myself over and over again how much fun I had at that same coffee shop with friends or family. I also recommend those coffee shops to my friends back home as a place they must visit when they go abroad. 😀
    In addition, I also buy, If they are offering, a few bags of coffee for the road back home. Something must fill that new mug, right? 😀

    • I agree, I like to have something sweet with my coffee, and I like to take a bag or two home :).

      I also would like to have a t-shirt with a coffee logo on it of my favorite brand! Also I can tell friends or family where they can get one to :).

  5. Selling products with your logo or shop name on them is a great idea. I would love to have a t-shirt with my favorite shop’s name on it.

    When I saw the title for this article, I thought it was going to be about selling retail items such as crafts, clothing, or artwork in your shop. Having a combined coffee shop and gallery can be a good way to bring in more customers and to make your shop seem more community minded. I love browsing items for sale while I wait for my coffee to be ready.

  6. I think the best way for products to sell in a shop is to make it as subtle as possible. One coffee shop I went to had all these products that occupied one or two regular coffee tables with various novelties– journals, mugs, tea diffusers, and a lot more. Although it’s great branding, I think too much stuff just kills the coffee shop vibe.
    Big brands like Starbucks make it look effortless since they offer discounts to your purchase if you provide them your own Starbucks-bought mug or cup. Krispy Kreme also does it well by adding caps and paraphernalia at a small area near the stirrers and sugar holders.
    I’m not sure if a lot of small cafes sell novelty items, but if there are any, how did it work for your business?

    • There’s a small family-owned coffee shop in my little town that has merchandise, though I don’t think they sell much. I’ve mostly just seen mugs and to-go cups with their brand, but it seems like it’s always the same stock. I think it must be harder to market novelty items since they aren’t as well known as a big chain like Starbucks, where everyone sports the logo.

    • I think that the retail products can also work as decorations. Instead of paintings, you can have some of your shirts on the wall, while decorative store shelves can carry some of your mugs and other retail items. The rest of the stuff should be kept in the back or storage room. That way, the store is not overwhelmed by a huge show of stocks, but it can still proudly display products without disrupting the feel of the shop.

  7. I always like browsing a shop’s merchandise, especially if it’s a shop that I return to often. Generally, I will only buy things like mugs. I’ve been to a few places that overdo it with the merchandise though, selling things like t-shirts, caps, and other wearable items with their brand. I think that it should stick to things associated with the shop; the one in the my favorite library sells quirky/punny coffee bookmarks, pens, and mugs.

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