You do the maths

30 November, 2007

Take advantage of Santa to earn you some cash with seasonal beers

This is always an interesting time of year for beer retailing, when the seasonal specials get rolled out. They tend to fall into two camps

- overtly branded Christmas beers

and winter warmer specials. The first might just be a regular beer with a little colour added, the second a completely new product

with a limited production run. This year has also been marked

by a couple of

releases which, sadly, are not available to the keen independent retailer. Or are they?

As covered elsewhere in this august organ, Duvel has released a Triple Hop version of its iconic golden ale, a 75cl bottle packaged elegantly in a pyramidal box, no doubt designed to

channel cosmic resonance

and enable the beer to evolve more complexity and richness.

Alongside this


have a new release from Innis & Gunn

- a rum cask-aged version of their beer. Both

these beers are undoubtedly excellent, coming as they do from producers with a great pedigree, albeit of differing lengths of time.

And both

are available only through Sainsbury's, I guess because

it has the capacity to buy the requisite amount in one go, the logistics to disperse it, and the shelf space to sell it all relatively quickly; too quickly, perhaps, as I was caught napping on the Innis & Gunn

and only managed to bag a

few bottles before they were sold out.

Now actually, I quite like this idea. A limited release should be just that . It should be something that doesn't hang around on the shop shelves for months, but is a product that is genuinely scarce. This serves to excite a bit of interest

and to make people commit to buying it on first sight. There's no time to mull over your purchase

- buy it now

or it won't be there when you return. It seems to have worked for Nintendo with the

Wii games console. (As an aside, whil e cruising a branch of Sainsbury's for beer, I asked about the availability of the Wii. This branch was getting

20 phone calls a day, but only three consoles a week. I was told that when the consoles arrived, the staff were bagging them before they reached the shop floor. There are an awful lot

on eBay, selling for well above the market value. Interesting business model. Have I said too much?)

I was surprised to find


these beers were listed under a "three-for-two" deal. As a keen beer geek, I was eager to scoop up some of these limited offerings, and did so. But I was torn

- great news for me, bad news for placing a limited release beer as a premium product.

After buying a very modest

number of these beers for my own consumption, I started to ponder the economics . The deal was equivalent to a 33 per cent discount, and if one purchased a large amount of stock on the deal, one might then resell the product at the original selling price, albeit with a slightly more modest margin.

The modest margin might make it less attractive for a beer at £2 a bottle, but what if you were selling it for £13

or even, knowing

it was a product that had sold out locally, £15?

Suddenly, the profit has moved from pennies to pounds, and buying stock for the shop while you pick up some weekly groceries seems not only possible, but sound business sense. Rather than buying below-cost commodity lager, keen independents should be looking at the premium products for real money-making opportunities.

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Is blended Scotch overshadowed by single malt in retailers?

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