Just so you know
Much has and will continue to be hashed out about the Beer Store’s weak knee jerk reaction to the growing lines of consumer and industry infantry that are circling them and shouting “Free the channel, down with monopolies”. If you haven’t heard, the Beer Store will allow craft brewers to put a couple of bottles on the shelf or something while also letting them fetch coffees at board meetings. (See Link)
Ok, people, just so you know, access to the retail channel is a DECOY! A distraction. Squirrel!
One of the biggest issues is unfair foreign control over the product. And guess what, this move to provide listing access to the shelves is the laxative they’re putting in the hot chocolate folks. They want you to say, “ah see they care”, then crack a cold one and return to your sofa to watch the game.
1. Access to listings
Just because they have concluded to open up the listing process to craft breweries, does not mean they’ll grant them, nor does it mean craft beer will be able to afford the crazy high extortion fees of these listings.
Yes, a couple of close proximity store listings will be “free”. But, but, why does that help a Crafty when local audiences can simply scoot over to their fav craft brewery to buy some suds direct from the source already? Local Beer Store outlet listing are just to appease the debate and water down the culture within the local radius.
The issue is that the Beer Store still gets to decide, through their gauge of competitiveness and marketability of the product in their channel, just who gets to hit the shelf. That is a complex audition process that is also highly politicized. What? Nah, politics and strategy falls into deciding who gets on a shelf? Nah. Oh yah. And so ultimately this process determines what products you will see, and how the general craft product will evolve? It’s not survival of the fittest or natural evolution, it’s Monsanto GMO control style madness!
Do you think that the Beer Store exec will list competitive products that threaten their volume? Who would allow that? Do you think the interest of the Beer Store is to assist craft brewers in building a strong healthy beer brand to massive volumes? Across the province and country?
2. Unfair Competitive Control
Opening up the listing does nothing to change the landscape of the deeper unfair competitive tactics that the Beer Store engages in. For example:
A. Providing listing possibilities is a tactic. Clearly. It says hey little complainer craft brewery — how about a wee listing— some shelf space? Now be nice and shut the brew up. Stop complaining or I’ll take it away. It is a suppressant and control people.
B. The Beer Store, much like the LCBO, operates as a pseudo marketing company and retailer that is responsible to promote itself, increase appetite for its product category and defend against alternative beverages while stocking its shelves with relevant, marketable well supported products.
The problem is that, unlike normal retailers who’s behaviour is regulated by diverse competition, the Beer Store and LCBO in their listing process can demand their suppliers — craft breweries — to provide package designs for approvals, beer samples for testing and strategy and marketing plans to gauge channel support — as much as 1 YEAR in advance of hitting the shelves. What the what?
Yes, this means that those 2 monopolies get to know every secret weapon of the beer before it gets into the channel. Boooo.
The LCBO however is relatively innocuous in a competitive sense because they don’t make booze. BUT the Beer Store, oh they do? And what that means is that they have all the motivation and time in the world to adjust their products to compete with the listed products before they hit the shelf. Even, oh boy, sometimes cancelling an independent’s listing before it hits the shelf and replacing it with their own. I’ve experienced it. Now I said it and I have to change my name. Dam. But it’s true kids.
3. The grand deep mega issue
The Beer Store is owned by brewery companies that strive to make a profit. They are not angels. They have no altruistic motivations. They are not even proud Canadians looking to help the Canuck underdog. They are publicly traded international entities that see the Canadian market as among the most profitable, easiest pushover channels in the world.
So, do you think they are looking out for the craft brewer? Are they looking out for the craft brew enthusiast? Will the Beer Store make an effort to support and foster the independent craft beer market place…. when what it means is a slow bleeding of their share?
Nope. They will use this distraction time to deepen their faux craft beer portfolio through acquisition and brand development and then slowly replace the real crafties from the wally once the lime light has shifted focus to the Kardashians again.
It is simply not in their interest. And, no one is making it their interest. Not government and not competition from other retailers or channels. Nobody. But you perhaps?
Keep the conversation going. Keep this top of mind and don’t let go of this one folks — not even if your team hits the playoffs. Ok, maybe if the Leaf’s make the finals.