Viewpoint – Raise a glass to successful beer retailers

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Retail Insider and K3 Retail bring you a monthly column taking a look at some of the most pertinent and interesting topics of the day in the big wide world of retail.

Raise a glass to successful beer retailers

As painful as it is to see that beer sales in my beloved pub industry have been eclipsed by turnover in shops and supermarkets (off-trade) for the first time since records began – the grief is somewhat offset by the fact this increase in retail sales has helped push total UK beer volumes up year-on-year.

This is the first time there has been such a total volume increase since 2004 and represents a radical turnaround in the fortunes of beer that has had a torrid time over recent years – both in pubs and retail stores.

While the major supermarkets are, not surprisingly, responsible for a hefty percentage of the off-trade sales increase (up 3.5% year-on-year according to the British Beer & Pub Association) – we are also experiencing something of a renaissance in the specialist drinks retailers.

At the mainstream value end of the market Conviviality Retail (that operates the Bargain Booze and Wine Rack chains) has shown that it is possible to run a high street off licence chain despite many others before it failing badly.

Its cost-conscious, differentiated offer combined with convenient locations has positioned it well to compete against the mighty supermarkets. And with the recent announcements from Morrison’s and Tesco that they are to dramatically reduce their drinks offerings this could well play into the hands of Bargain Booze.


The big grocers have also successfully played in the premium bottle end of the market but despite this there have still been a plethora of specialist beer sellers (or bottle shops if you prefer) emerge over recent years.

Off the top of my head – The Bottle Shop, BottleDog, Ales by Mail, Beer Boutique, Beer Moth and Beer Emporium are among the players in the market. Some are not only retailing on the high street but also have strongly growing online propositions with monthly subscriptions for mixed cases of different beers from small producers a particularly popular offering.

What some of them also have is the ability to sell beers for consumption on the premises – so they operate a neat hybrid business. This is a great differentiator and highlights how smart retailers are evolving their models to carve out profitable positions for themselves in a tough retail market.

Now that is definitely something worth drinking to. Cheers.

Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider

K3 Retail deliver multi-channel solutions that enable retailers to create joined up shopping experiences for their customers whether they choose to buy on-line, direct, in-store or via mobile. It has over 20 years’ experience delivering award winning solutions, to more than 175 internationally recognised retail brands.