One Brand Or Many Brands?

Trends and Tips on developing and operating a tea business.

Nov 20th, '09, 14:23
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One Brand Or Many Brands?

by tammytx » Nov 20th, '09, 14:23

Hello - I have a store and am about to start carrying teas....I LOVE teas, all teas and am not particular about where they come from. I am not a tea snob. SO...I am wondering if I should carry several brands of teas from different companies or should I just stick to one company? If you have an opinion on this, I'd be interested in knowing why you feel that way. Thanks so much for your valuable feedback! I'm new at all of this. Tammy in Maryland

Nov 20th, '09, 15:18
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Re: One Brand Or Many Brands?

by Intuit » Nov 20th, '09, 15:18

Primary issues:
Who is your competition in the local area?
How much money and shelf space do you have allocated for teas?
What product format are you looking for - teabags, looseleaf, or both?

As you will probably be buying wholesale, you will face minimum purchase limits that may well overwhelm your stocking budget.

You may want to query customers (do a small giveaway in return for them filling out a short questionaire) on their preferred flavors of tea, as you are more likely to sell these teas than looseleaf unflavored teas. You can ask them about their preferences among looseleaf (black, green, oolong), but don't be surprised if you have your work cutout for you, in one-on-one time in educating your customers to encourage sales in brewing and consuming unflavored, nonbagged teas, because of a lack of exposure and competition in beverage consumption preferences with flavored coffees and bottled cold name-brand cold drinks.

If you want boxes/tinned teas, stick to the well-known names, like Harney and Sons, Republic of Tea, at the middle price points, PG Tips, Twinings, and Scottish Blend at the lower price points. You can offer a selection of bagged and looseleaf teas to suit customer demand and your budget. If you want to try something out of the ordinary, contact Murchies Teas in Vancouver BC. You would be surprised at the number of Canadian expats that would flock to buy it locally. Ask first, though.

Since you're in Maryland, you have a relatively educated public with more sophisticated buying habits than, say out here in the sparsely populated wilds of the Inner Pacific Northwest. Consider your displays showing simple tea-brewing setups for work and home. Suggest better teabags for ease of use in the workplace or while away from home.

You can also cater to coffeehounds by carrying a nifty mate that tastes like coffee (Matte Latte, Republic of Tea).

Your aim is to encourage customers who are passingly familiar with tea to increase their tea consumption - hopefully, through your shop.

You should also talk candidly to national wholesale suppliers like and Republic of Tea for recommendations on startup packages for small businesses. They can set up a progressive purchase plan, based on tea sales performance.

Nov 20th, '09, 16:59
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Re: One Brand Or Many Brands?

by tammytx » Nov 20th, '09, 16:59

I don't have ANY competition, it's a small town (15,000). There's a small natural food store here that sells some boxed herbal tea, but very small selection, then the stuff at the grocery. Nothing available loose. The closest competition is about 30 miles away.

I believe I'd like to sell loose teas as well as tea bags.

I have about 300 square feet in my store that I can dedicate to this, perhaps more. I don't have a budget yet, I'd like to have a nice selection, but not a stupid amount that is overwhelming.

Is it wise to carry several brands? It seems like that way I'd have a better selection.

Nov 20th, '09, 19:24
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Re: One Brand Or Many Brands?

by Intuit » Nov 20th, '09, 19:24

Loose tea can be sold from large glass jars with screw lids. Make sure you store them away from fluorescent overhead lights and away from large windows. Harneys sells tinned looseleaf, as an alternative.

You'll have to do some math on the wholesale price point and retail pricing. You probably will want to sell simple teaware.

For boxed and looseleaf brands and inexpensive teaware that sells, take a look at as an example of what you might consider carrying in your shop.

Ask Specialteas customer service for a rank order of the most popular flavored and unflavored teas in 4 or 5 categories (black, oolong, popular blends, green, white, herbal, flavored). Your area is unlikely to be substantially different than a nationwide norm for tea sellers.

Pick a budget number for starters, then decrease it by 20%, to reflect the present economy. Small towns have been hit hard in this black economy. They will take much longer to recover than medium and larger metro areas. Allocate a small portion for boxed teas in 3 or 4 categories, and choose one or two teas in each looseleaf category you plant to stock.

Offer at least a few teapots, matching cups, saucers. You can order in matching milk/sugar as needed. If you sell looseleaf, you may as well stock some tins (purchased by the case), as well.

Allocate half the space you have to tea; find another use for the remainder. In a small town, you cannot put all your eggs in one basket, until you have experience in demand potential for teas.

If you offer local specialty wines, honey/maple syrup, jams, etc - you can gain enough foot traffic to potentially build your tea lovers clientele.

Set up a small table for preparing teas to sample in the middle of the room. This activity does more for selling teas than the prettiest displays.

Nov 20th, '09, 19:39
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Re: One Brand Or Many Brands?

by tammytx » Nov 20th, '09, 19:39

You have been amazingly helpful! Thank you so much! I am excited and am sure I will have a zillion more questions as I get started! Thanks again!


Nov 20th, '09, 19:56
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Re: One Brand Or Many Brands?

by Intuit » Nov 20th, '09, 19:56

Use this board to connect with tea retailers. They will provide the insight necessary to avoid as much risk as possible. Also use this board for insight into the most reliable wholesalers in India, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan and Japan.

One other item: consider linking up the area potters who make teaware and tea storage jars. You can work out a deal for display and sales that will suit you and the potter, once a bond of trust is established after a trial period.

Happy to be of service. There are others here who have the relevant experience to be of more substantial assistance to you.

Like socializing at any pub, it's best to mix with the regulars, up in the tea and teawares section, to rub elbows and gain exposure so that they will know of your thread here and lend an idea or tip, or two.

Good luck!

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Nov 20th, '09, 21:37
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Re: One Brand Or Many Brands?

by gingkoseto » Nov 20th, '09, 21:37

300 square feet that's pretty large! Congratulations!
The (relatively) better teas and better deals are usually from teas without commercial brands. It also largely depends on your potential customers' brand loyalty (or lack of it). If they don't go for particular brands then I would say non-brands teas are better choice. :D

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