I had an interesting experience yesterday that I would like to share. In my never-ending quest to gain knowledge and enhance my beer experience, I went into a wine and beer store yesterday to see if they needed a “beer guy” to add to their arsenal of help.
I’m always looking for a good opportunity and like to keep myself flexible for such things when they come up, so I thought this might be a good avenue to get into the business, since I don’t have any “job” experience in beer. (That’s why blogs are awesome, because no one asks you how long you’ve been a doing so and so before you can start one. Then again, maybe that’s why blogs aren’t good. Either way, I digress…)
On with my story. So I go in and ask if they are looking for help on their sales team, and the general manager first asks me how much wine experience I have. Now, having none, I figured this could be a sticking point. I didn’t think, “Well, I’ve drank wine before,” would be a good answer. I simply answered that I did not have much, but I was very much into beer and I felt that with training, perhaps I could acquire similar skills with wine.
The GM went on to say (he was very nice) that they look for top-level wine people in their hires, and that from day 1 they need to be able to handle customers and make recommendations based on food pairings, etc. I wasn’t going to pretend I could do that right off the bat, so I asked, “What about beer?”
His response to this is what floored me so much. He more or less said that they really don’t care about their beer inventory. They have a wide selection of macro and craft beer, but the margins are so small it isn’t worth it for them to allocate resources to provide customer service for their beer selection. He said they “give away their beer” and they were much better off using all their resources to sell wine, which is where they made all their profit.
He went on to say that they consciously do not want their associates dedicated to that area, and “as long as they know the basic styles and the difference between an ale and a lager, that’s enough.” Maybe it’s because I love beer, but I could not imagine that a store that held such high standards of knowledge and expertise of wine for their employees would have such a low standard for craft beer.
I’m not advocating they reconfigure their store to add more beer inventory and hire a slew of beer fanatics. I understand that retailers survive by selling the most of their high margin items. However, if they do make at least some profit on beer, why not have at least one person on staff that is an expert on that area? If nothing else, it could help draw in craft beer lovers, and I’m sure they would cross sell wine when those customers come into the store.
As much as I love beer, I do like to enjoy the occasional bottle of wine. If I had a good relationship with that retailer, I would be more inclined to buy my beer and wine from them, rather than just picking up a bottle from Publix while I’m grocery shopping. Maybe my market segment isn’t big enough to justify the expense of one employee.
It all seemed a little short-sighted to me. Then again, I am a little biased. And what do I know? I’ve never worked retail.