When consumers think of Walmart, the first thing that pops into their minds likely isn't beer. Good deals? Possibly. Cheap clothes? Definitely. But beer? Highly unlikely — and founder Sam Walton presumably wanted to keep it that way.
But nevertheless, Walmart can't deny that an increased share in the $45 billion U.S. beer market is becoming increasingly appealing, and while the retail giant doesn't necessarily have plans to publicize its greater investment in the carbonated adult beverage industry, a new report from Bloomberg illuminates the Arkansas-based company is undoubtedly shifting its attention to the booze, and hoping its consumers do as well.
In Bloomberg's report, Renee Dudley deep-dived into Walmart's big play in giving beer revenue a major boost. Here are seven major takeaways that we know you'll enjoy, and think about the next time you enter a Walmart superstore.
1. Adult beverage summit
The first thing we learn from the Bloomberg piece is that Waltons like to have fun, too!
Not necessarily, but we do learn that Walmart hosted 500 representatives from the alcohol industry at its Sam's Club auditorium in Arkansas for a little adult beverage get-together last September. At the Summit, the company's executives proved to alcohol buyers how serious they were about increasing Walmart's share in the beer market — and that means doubling its adult beverage sales by 2016.
Looking back over the year's figures, it appears as though the retailer wasn't kidding. Here's how Walmart has worked to make that happen.
Walmart is the discount king and it proves it again with its beer discounts, especially with those brands that are selling well, including Molson Coors Brewing Company's Coors, Anheuser Busch's Bud Lights, and even Deschutes's craft beers. The retailer is almost daring you to liquidate your party with beer from Walmart with its unbeatable prices, and it even doubled its number of alcohol buyers to 12 to ensure it effectively manages to cover every consumer's beer needs.
You'll even find these beer offerings front and center in Walmart stores, and don't worry, other slow-selling products won't get in your way to the gold, because the retail company has already abandoned those bummers to make way for the good stuff.
3. Hard work pays off
Luckily for Walmart, its adult beverage boost isn't all for nothing, and the retailer is already seeing the fruits of its labor.
Major beer suppliers such as Columbia Distributing are now paying more attention to the retail giant as it recognizes the success Walmart has had in the industry. Columbia Distributing now supplies about 90 Walmart stores in Washington and Oregon, and according to its vice president of chain accounts, Steve Bailey, it recognizes a beer gold mine when it sees it. Bailey explains that the distributor is "seeing dramatic increases in sales" that "has pushed us to pay more attention to Walmart."
4. Shh, it's still a secret
And the best part about Walmart's beer push? It's a secret. Well, at least it was a secret.
Because founder Sam Walton has always been vocal about his distaste for the business of drinking excessively, Walmart has honored its founder's wishes and not heavily advertised its new beer focus. Thus, you haven't seen Walmart commercials advertising its beer offerings for a reason, and it'll likely stay that way.
In fact, many of the retailer's investors and analysts don't even know about the company's new carbonated beverage strategy — and that may be the secret to its success. But no matter how quiet Walmart proves to be about the matter, rest assured its wheels are turning to make certain its beer sector is the most successful it can be, and that includes working to overturn the retail alcohol sales bans that have inhibited Walmart in the past.
5. Bye-bye, Benton ban
In fact, two Walton grandsons have already successfully reversed a crucial ban in the county that is home to the company's very own headquarters. Last year, the two Walton men led a fruitful campaign through Benton that ended in an overturning of its retail alcohol sales ban. And promotions of alcohol can now even be found in the company's circulars. If that doesn't demonstrate that Walmart's approach to alcohol is in transition, albeit a quiet one, we don't know what does.
6. Overcoming regulations
Still, although Walmart was successful in its "home district" with the ban overturn, the company continues to faces pushback from many other states that have regulations prohibiting the retailer from discounting its alcohol. Fortunately for Walmart, the retail giant has been able to outsmart these codes by offering gift cards and mail-in rebates to customers who agree to buy beer with "cross-promoted merchandise" such as outdoor furniture, grills, and lawn chairs.
For example, certain Walmart stores have used summer as an excuse to promote Bud Light's Lima-A-Rita and Straw-Ber-Rita malt beverages with chips, nuts, or other seasonal offerings, and because those deals can be classified as cross-promotional offerings, customers can score up to $10 in gifts cars for them.
7. Beer here
Walmart is also taking the initiative with its new stores to make sure customers know exactly where the beer is, even if that means shacking the adult beverage up right at the front of the store next to the produce. Because who doesn't like a beer to go along with their greens?
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