Walmart Selling More Beer

bigstock-LOS-ANGELES-CALIFORNIA--SEP-23596268When you think of Walmart, you probably don’t think of beer… at least up until this point. However, according to Bloomberg, the mega retailer is moving aggressively to grab its share of a U.S. industry worth $45 billion, and Walmart is selling more beer. In fact, the retailer revealed at a September 2012 “adult beverage summit,” held at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, that they want to double sales by 2016.

While the retail giant garners publicity about some moves, like buying greater amounts of locally grown produce for its stores, it’s been relatively quiet about plans to increase the sale of beer. However, according Cameron Smith, president of Cameron Smith & Associates, an executive search firm that works closely with Walmart suppliers (as quoted in Bloomberg’s “Wal-mart [sic] Stacking Beer in the Aisles to Double Alcohol Sales”), “They’ve said they want to be the number-one beer seller in the world. They’re getting there quick.”

Walmart Beer Sales Aren’t New

Walmart has been selling alcohol (as allowed by state laws) since the late 1980s when it opened its first supercenters. Speculation is that the retailer hasn’t promoted alcohol sales due to the legacy of founder, Sam Walton, who had limited tolerance for overconsumption of alcohol.

In its attempt to grab market share, Walmart increased the number of alcohol buyers from six to twelve and relationships with distributors are very positive. Unlike other products on Walmart shelves that come directly from suppliers, buyers must purchase alcoholic beverages from third-party distributors to comply with various state and local regulations.

Creating Space for Beer

To this point, Walmart’s share of the alcohol market has lagged behind that of the grocery market. The retailer developed a three-sided plan to overcome that including devoting more shelf space and increasing promotion, discounting wherever possible, and hiring more buyers and reducing their territories to improve their relationships with distributors.

In some stores, Walmart is selling beer and alcoholic beverages from shelves in the garden center. However, moving forward, they’re re-designing store layouts to place adult beverages in more appealing locations. In the meantime, that hasn’t stopped them from featuring a 16-foot beer display in the aisle, as occurred in an Ohio Walmart for a Fourth of July promotion.

Walmart is not limiting sales to the products of the huge breweries including Anheuser-Busch InBev or MillerCoors. They’re selling some craft beers, including Deschutes from an Oregon brewer. Steve Bailey, vice president of chain accounts for Columbia Distributing, one of the nation’s largest distributors based in Spokane, WA, notes that craft beer sales in Oregon- and Washington-area Walmarts have been strong.

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