What We Can Learn About Retail From Craft Beer

CraftBeerLet’s talk about beer.  You may or may not like beer but there are plenty of lessons in that business for all retailers.

Beer has been dominated by a few large brewers and then controlled at a local level by a hand full of distributors for a variety of historical reasons. However, changes in the 80’s across the US allowed new small and local companies to sprout up and over the last 30 or so years there has been a boom in brewing and selling craft beers. Now there are literally thousands of breweries and brew pubs. That’s amazing when you consider that there were less than 100 brewers in US in the 70’s.

So what happened? How did all these new small business start and then grow? How are the little guys growing even while globe spanning multi-billion dollar competitors are seeing their market share shrink?

Local, Local, Local

Craft brewing is focused on the local. The names, ingredients, flavors, packaging and stories are generally based on something local.  That’s not a bad approach in today’s market. It also resonates very strongly with millennials who are the largest group of consumers at this point (sorry baby boomers). Many consumers today want something different and not just the same old commodities you can find coast to coast. That’s true whether you’re talking about beer, food, apparel, or most anything else. Find something local to add to your store. Wherever you are and whatever you’re selling there is probably something you can add to give your store a local flavor.

Different and Sometimes Even Unique

Good flavors? Weird flavors? Crazy names? Local Flair?  Check, check, check and check.  When MoonJuice Galactic IPA is on the menu, you just have to try it.  Or maybe you’d rather have a “Devil’s Ale”?  That name is a shout out to our local ASU Sun Devils! Is your preference for beer with unique flavors?  Then maybe you’d go for a “Mr. Pineapple” instead.  Pineapple beer is pretty different. It may not be everybody’s favorite flavor but it is unique. Good or bad is for you to decide but most people will try one just to say they tried it. The brewpub that carried it will be in your mind for some time because of the very different experience that they provided with their awesome/weird/crazy beer. FYI – the beers listed above are brewed by San Tan Brewing right here in Phoenix and they are spectacular! So if you’re ever down this way, you have to give them a try!

That approach is relevant for any retailer. For example, you can carry a few items that are truly unique – maybe way out there.  Think of it as a marketing tool.  You may never sell a lot of them, but display them prominently and they can entice people into your store and help lodge your store in your customer’s mind as the place to go when they don’t want the same old stuff.  You may have to write off a few crazy inventory items but that’s just a marketing cost of doing business. But if it helps your store become the first stop, it’s totally worth it.

Energy and Information Sharing

Ever been to a craft brewery? They’re excited for you to try their beer. They’re excited to tell you how they make it.  They’re excited for you to at least try one of their brews even if you don’t buy it. It’s refreshing to see people who are enthusiastic about their product. That positive attitude will make any business better.  Add a little knowledge about the products and why they’re different from and better than the competition and you’ve given a powerful tool to any retail person.

That’s just a few things awesome things about the brew industry that are worthy of notice. There are a lot more but you should do your own research with a simple visit. It’s always fun to learn some new ideas from another business doing something totally different. And I recommend having a pint while you think about it – maybe San Tan’s Devil’s Ale, but I happen to be partial to Pale Ales!! Cheers!


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