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How we doubled retail coffee sales at Cobb’s Coffee

How we doubled retail coffee sales at Cobb’s Coffee

We launched Cobb’s Coffee in Ballarat in December 2020 at what we thought was the tail end of our pandemic lockdowns (we were only wrong by a year). Rumble joined forces with our friend and local lad Brendan Wrigley to open a coffee shop to showcase Rumble, make the best coffee in Ballarat and sell loads of retail beans. 

Cobbs Coffee

Brendan did all the hard work as the Rumble team was locked inside fortress Melbourne for three months and not allowed to mingle with the rest of the state. Rumble directors Joe and Matt both visited the site once separately (and legally) but kept a low profile as residents of the plague city weren’t the most welcome at that point. 

Aside from that, their input was reduced to emails and zoom calls and, in Joe’s case, phone calls from his backyard while he was mired in the hell of homeschooling a five-year-old. Good times. 

But we knew what we wanted to do. Brendan had recently returned from London and worked with the powerful team at Rosslyn Coffee. They made delicious coffee but also sold lots of bags to take home. Rumble had always been about those retail sales. Designing bright, eye-catching bags from the start (remember the birds?) made to leap from the shelves and inspire customers to take them home and continue their Rumble experience. 

Cobbs Coffee: best coffee in Ballarat

We designed a large shelf to the right of the shop, room for loads of coffee bags, brew gear, grinders, Aeropress, and all the good stuff. It was large and open and we knew it would sell lots of coffee. 

 But it didn’t. 

Not really. After a year and a half, we were selling a steady amount of retail coffee (around $200 per day), but we knew it wasn’t reaching its potential. 

Running a coffee shop is hard, running one that is profitable is diabolically tough. If you’re a visitor to Cobb’s (or many other great and outwardly successful coffee shops) you’d probably think we were killing it. The place is busy, the prices on the higher end, and the team small. 

Cobbs Coffee team

But it’s not a financial gold mine. The ATO has the average profit margin for coffee shops at 10% and that is surely skewed by lots of owner/operators doing many free hours in their businesses. 

Retail coffee is an excellent sales boost for a coffee shop as it is low touch, zero waste (because any you don’t sell you put through your hopper) and high margin (your coffee roaster should give you 40% or more). It can boost spend per head from $5 for a cup of coffee to $25 and above for a latte to go and a bag of sweet single origin. 

In early winter 2022, Brendan and Joe visited Hobart to get some ideas and drink lots of coffee. Pete from Audrey Coffee was his usual hospitable self and showed Brendan through the business. His openness included extended to opening up his Square terminal and showing how much retail they were selling. Loads! 

The key, Pete claimed, aside from a stack of delicious coffee from around Australia (including Rumble but also Villino, Wood & Co and Market Lane, among others) was having his huge shelf with coffee right where people were waiting. 

We knew that, that’s what we’d done.

Hadn’t we?

Maybe not. The retail shelf was a couple of metres to the right of the till between two tables. Many people ordered and then waited outside, or if the tables were full, they might feel like they were imposing on the people sitting there. Did we need to have one right by the door?

It was worth a shot. We spent $400 on some nice shelves and loaded them up with coffee.

Cobbs Coffee beans

Brendan started ordering extra 1kg bags of their house blend, Haymaker, but also added some Shadow Boxer (our biggest selling blend but not one they’d sold before) and ever-increasing amounts of retail single origin for espresso and filter.

The effect was instant. From the first week, it sold an extra $70 to $100 per day, and that just kept going. It’s only been up for five months but our sales in December 2022 were double the previous years. December being the biggest month for retail sales.

We grew from $3,898 to $8,142 in bags of coffee sold.

That's a 108% increase and isn't counting coffee-making kit like the Aeropress, Hario V60’s, filters, etc.

A $2,000 per week boost to the takings all from a $400 shelf.

Is that all there is to it? No, of course not.

You need delicious coffee to start with and staff that knows how to sell it. But we had those all along. What we needed was to get it right in front of every customer’s eyeballs, so they couldn’t miss it.