Bacardi to Open Concept Store in the Bahamas

Hershey’s, Apple and Nike all have stores to showcase their brand and products. Now Bacardi will have one, too.

Thursday’s grand opening of the Bacardi store in downtown Nassau, Bahamas may be the first of its kind in the spirits industry.

The store will sell all the Bacardi portfolio of brands, plus a variety of branded accessories never available to the public in an independent retail store.

“This is a way that people can interact with the company and learn about the brand in a different way then just going up to a bar and ordering a rum and Coke,” said Joaquin Bacardi, president and chief executive officer of Bacardi Corp. in Puerto Rico, who manages the operations of the entire Caribbean region.

Brand concept stores, which have been around for years in other retail segments, have grown in popularity as a way to make a direct connection with the consumer. Ultimately, those kind of connections help to build brand loyalty.

“When you get the name and image placed in certain context, it’s a way to cut through the clutter,” said Tom Pirko of BevMark, an industry consultant. “These stores may not do terribly well. They’re more billboards for the brand.”

While the bright red exterior of the two-story store features the Bacardi name and the trademark bat, the selection inside will also include both spirits and accessories from Grey Goose vodka, Bombay Sapphire gin, Dewar’s Scotch whiskey, Cazadores tequila and other Bacardi-owned brands.

You’ll find Bacardi red wind-breaker jackets, white guayaberas and black polo shirts. There are also Grey Goose golf bags and martini glasses; Dewar’s golf umbrellas and backpacks; Bombay Sapphire beach towels and sun visors, and Cazadores cowboy hats.

The store will also offer a selection of higher-end spirits only available in limited distribution, including Bacardi Reserva Limitada, Rubi Rey, Dewar’s Signature and Aberfeldy Single Malt.

The only place Bacardi has offered a comparable selection of spirits and merchandise is the Casa Bacardi Visitor’s Center at the company’s distillery just outside San Juan.

The brand store was the idea of Bacardi’s distributor in the Bahamas, Bristol Group of Companies Limited, which will own and operate the Bacardi store.

“We’re trying to intrigue the customer and offer something unique,” said Juan Bacardi, owner of Bristol Group, which already operates 19 multibrand liquor stores in the Bahamas. “Hopefully this will bring on a trend in our industry.”

The reason there haven’t been brand-concept stores before for spirits is because of the issue of marketing to consumers under age 21, even if it’s only T-shirts and hats that you’re selling them.

“There’s a perception that you’re going to be attracting lots of kids, and it’s been seen as bad public form,” Pirko said. “Even if you’re not selling them product, you’repromoting drinking alcohol.”

But Pirko believes that while the idea would be problematic in the United States, the issues aren’t likely to be an obstacle in the Caribbean, where the store is targeted to tourists and the cultural views are different.

Bahamanian officials are hoping the Bacardi store, located steps from the cruise ship port and historic Nassau Straw Market, will serve as a key anchor to help revitalize the downtown area of Bay Street.

“The name Bacardi makes it an attraction that is good for tourism,” said David Johnson, deputy director of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. “It gives tourists another reason to spend more time on Bay Street and more money in the Bahamas.”

Copyright (C) 2008 The Miami Herald