Recently I was in The Beer Store staring at the famous label wall. For those who don’t know, the “label wall” is the menu of beers that are available at The Beer Store. It’s a large grid with labels of every brand, with their packaging formats and pricing right below. It’s a poor retail experience as it eliminates browsing or looking at the packaging of the beers available (except for the few in the Ice Cold Express). You basically need to know what you want before going in, as the label wall doesn’t do anything to help you choose.
Generally this works to the advantage of big brewers, as consumers will probably order what they know and shy away from trying new products they aren’t familiar with and can’t see. But there’s something else at The Beer Store now that even further keeps craft beers away from the consideration set of consumers – The Big Ten.
The Big Ten is a section of The Beer Store’s label wall dedicated to, presumably, their top ten selling brands. This section has a larger prominence on the wall, bigger label display sizes and even written brand descriptions. The Big Ten are: Coors Light (Molson), Canadian (Molson), Budweiser (Labatt), Blue (Labatt), Carling Lager (Molson), Lakeport Pilsner (owned by Labatt), Keith’s (owned by Labatt), Bud Light (Labatt), Lucky Lager (Labatt) and Corona (represented in Canada by Molson). That’s 6 brands of Labatt, 4 by Molson.
Now I won’t argue that the top selling brands are actually all from the owners of The Beer Store (Molson and Labatt), but it is quite obviously self-serving to promote these brands above all else. The fact that they are the top ten selling brands gives The Beer Store a convenient excuse to showcase their largest brands and no others. The Big Ten are also the only brands featured on The Beer Store’s web site as well. If you want to find another brand, you must search for it, not unlike the in-store experience. You need to know what you’re looking for in order to find it. How about a feature wall “top ten brands you haven’t tried before”? Not very likely.
The Big Ten is prime example of The Beer Store ignoring the interests of the craft beer consumer. It keeps the large brands of The Beer Store owners front-and-centre and does nothing to help a consumer try something new. We need to keep pushing to allow for competition in the beer market and allow for specialty stores which will give craft beer the prominence it deserves.