Warning: the contents of this post are groundbreaking. At least they are for me. If you like to buy things, really any things, which I know you do, this might change your shopping experience for the better. I guarantee it is about to revolutionize the large-format retail environment as soon as our behind-the-times big-box stores catch a whiff.
I wandered into Boulder’s newest player in the overcrowded world of beverage outlets in town, Hazel’s Beverage World. I had no idea what it was about, except that it’s housed in a somewhat cursed location. You know those locations that can’t seem to stay in business longer than a few years at most? But, sometimes it takes just the right business mind to make it work, and perhaps seasoned store owners, Bruce and Carleen Dierking, are the lucky charms.
Full disclosure, I was hoping ‘beverage world’ meant more than just a wine, beer, and alcohol mecca (it wholly earns that title). We already have one of those in Boulder; it’s appropriately called Liquor Mart. Dingy, overcrowded, and hard to navigate for sure, but did we really need another warehouse full of booze? We live in a time of beverage abundance, from energy drinks to iced teas, fresh juices to artisanal sodas and don’t forget chia seed drinks, and admittedly I was secretly hoping and naively assuming I was walking into a well-designed warehouse full of fancy juice. If you know me at all, you just laughed out loud. Laughable, I know, but that is just the type of store one would find in Boulder, being home to the natural and organic food manufacturing industry and at least six natural foods groceries stores for a population of 125,000. We do not lack in creative minds nor money.
I digress. Hazel’s does some great things aside from not fulfilling my fancy soda and fresh juice dreams. The shelves are low so you don’t get lost in the tequila section; large, clear signage makes for easy navigation around the store; a stellar mix of traditional brands from around the world as well as local names (see Leopold Bros. below) to please just about any type of customer; and a unique 1930’s aviation theme makes for interesting marketing fodder.
The real brilliance comes in the form of digital price tag displays. BOOM. Not the words you were expecting to read, I know.
There were literally thousands of these price tags for the thousands of products, neatly magnetized to the shelves. I, for one, have never seen anything like this, and while I’m no tech junkie, I know a smart piece of technology when I see one. Forget cucumber sodas and St. Germaine, tell me more about the digital price tags at once. The spunky sales lady who thankfully convinced me to buy nitrogen to pump into my half-drank bottles of wine for preservation sake, explained to me how these gadgets work. Enter prices into a software-based program on your computer. The software sends the information to a server which transmits it to the price tags. That’s it. Oh, and did I mention the batteries in each display last for 10 years? No more sticky paper price tags, mislabeling, or price checks (I have a price check at register one…register one, price check, no more). Last minute sale? No problem. Update the price in the computer and the ‘SALE’ flashes on the display with the regular and sale prices for comparison sake. Pure genius.
So who makes these? There are a few companies out there, but Swedish tech company, Pricer, nails it with “Real time pricing”. French retailer Carrefour is already using it, so why aren’t we? If any of you have seen these in the US already, please tell me where, I’m dying to know. I know the investment in such technological savviness is hefty, but Hazel’s prices are just as good as anywhere and they saved themselves a huge headache, which in the retail world is worth a pretty penny. Sustainable? I think yes.