Article written by Stephen Wilson, Category and Insights Manager at Strikeforce.

There has been a quiet evolution taking place in liquor stores, both large and small, across the country.

The on-premise trade has been largely off limits due to state government COVID-driven mandates and density restrictions, and brands have had little choice but to reach out to drinkers through the off-premise. So naturally, new entrants have been appearing across the channel and placing space pressure on existing brands.

Innovation has been a constant across the off-premise channel, particularly for beer and ready to drink categories and sections of the store.

There has been a fair bit of excitement off the back of this innovation and during a recent field visit, it was noticeable the significant amount of fridge space that has been dedicated to emerging products or categories like the recent wave of gin-based RTD products, hard seltzers or the latest hazy pales to hit the market.

For balance, store visits were made to big box, attached bottled shops and independents and my observation is that classic and mainstream beer six-packs and singles were being positioned on shelf and in cool rooms away or adjacent to the latest craft or NPD offerings. This also appeared to be the case for mainstream cider and RTD brands.

Due to the number of new brands, some well-loved classic brands appeared to be ‘lost’ in the plethora of colours and on-shelf noise.

The success of some of these category ‘stars’ is great to observe and when there are other brands that tap into the new growth trend created, there is a real need to manage the amount of space allocated so that traditional brands that demand their fair share of shelf and space are not sidelined.

Has this made it a better or worse shopping experience for customers? Depends on the shopper, store location and occasion so there is no definitive answer.

Think about the difference, for example, between the needs of the tradie who is after a six-pack on the way home from work, and the craft beer drinker who loves exploring new brands.

Their needs are completely different with the tradie wanting easy access to their favourite brand in a minimal time frame, compared to the craft beer drinker who is happy to browse and make a more considered choice before they make their decision.

My point is that all drinkers’ needs must be taken into consideration when deciding what brands are ranged. How many IPAs is enough? How many hard seltzers should be ranged before the choice becomes overwhelming? Is there still enough space allocated to leading RTD brands?

The right balance between new and emerging and mainstream brands is critical to meeting customer needs, retaining a loyal shopper base and maintaining a healthy bottom line.

This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of National Liquor News.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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