How Local Businesses Can Serve Diverse Customers

by FCS on

by Jeff Delp

You see the signs popping up in September.  You hear folks murmur, ”I can’t believe it’s out already.” People line up with eager anticipation.

No, I’m not talking about Christmas shopping. It’s the Pumpkin Spice Latte!

The hot drink has become as synonymous with fall as riding with your dad on a scenic, mountain drive to see the leaves change. As familiar as watching UGA beat their first three opponents.

The major coffee companies have marketed the pumpkin spice latte so well, it has become almost as much of a part of fall culture as Halloween and Thanksgiving. 

Well, in certain circles. The PSL has a reputation for being the signature drink of white women, and its price point puts it out of range for many coffee drinkers. So what do we do at our neighborhood coffee shop that serves a variety of customers from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds?

Marketing at both Community Grounds Café and Carver Market can be challenging due to the diversity of our customer base. We’ve sold plenty of pumpkin spice lattes this fall, but they don’t drive our seasonal sales like larger companies may experience.

In order for our stores to work, we need to and want to serve the unique, cross-section of people within two miles of our store.  If you look at our demographics, 30% of our population makes $15,000 or less in a year. And yet, within those same two miles, 10% of people make over $100,000 a year.

Our philosophy in product selection is simple: try to stock a variety where there’s something for everyone. Sure, we offer a $4 PSL, but we’ll sell a $1 cup of coffee just as happily. In Carver Market, we display locally sourced bread at $5, while we also carry generic brands. Almond Butter and Jiffy sit side-by-side, and Granola lives just below Captain Crunch. We sell Smart Water, and we sell Kool-Aid.

We’ve witnessed urban pioneer markets that opened selling all natural and organic items in a neighborhood that couldn’t sustain it. And we continue to see local, longtime businesses that haven’t updated their product mix for decades. They stick with what makes money, even if the food isn’t great for our community or our bodies.

We want our businesses to offer something different. We want our store to serve all of those around us. And we hope that a variety of options will also introduce all neighbors to new selections outside their comfort zones.

And we wonder if other stories are navigating a similar product mix. So here’s a challenge for you!

Find another store in the United States where you can buy both a Pumpkin Spice Latte & a Pick 5 deal, and we’ll give you a $50 gift card to the store!

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