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.
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.
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.