Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

6 Questions About The Beer Store's New Beer Boutique

Since news broke in April about The Beer Store's plans to introduce Toronto citizens to the first of what could be many Beer Boutique's, I've had the pleasure of getting to know Dave Paterson, The Beer Store's new Brand Manager. I've been out to the Beer Store's headquarters for a couple of meetings with respect to the new Boutique and had the opportunity to look over some proofs of the projected retail store and we discussed some of the changes that the Beer Store will be undertaking in the next couple of years.

The Boutique, which is slated to open in Liberty Village (120 Lynn-Williams St) towards the end of June, will, as you can see in the picture to the right, be more visually appealing than traditional Beer Stores throughout Ontario. The store will be offering smaller package sizes (singles, 6-packs, 12-packs) that will be easier to handle for individuals getting on and off public transit, will not accomodate bottle returns, will introduce customers to tasting seminars and glassware tips, will be a completely open self serve atmosphere and the store will bring back the much loved 8-pack carriers that the LCBO once had before getting rid of them, but with a twist. In my opinion, all improvements for the 84 year old company.

During our last discussion, I thought it would be appropriate to ask Paterson a number of questions about the new Boutique, giving him the opportunity to share some more information with the readers of this blog. I, like some of you, had questions about how this new store will differ, in selection, than regular Beer Store locations, and I believe that Paterson and the rest of the Beer Store team that are working on this Boutique have done a good job approaching it from a different, less traditional angle - working towards something new for beer drinkers in Ontario.

His answers to the 6 questions I posed to him are below.

The Beer Boutique. Can you provide the readers with the background story?
The Beer Boutique has been in play well before I joined the organization. In response to consumer insight studies, our leadership team started to develop the Boutique concept. We are extremely excited about The Beer Boutique and the experience it will deliver to the beer customer.

How will this store, appearance and layout excluded, be different from the rest of the Beer Store locations?
With all due respect the appearance and layout play a key role in differentiating our new retail concept. The boutique embraces the heritage of the brewing industry. Copper elements combined with exposed brick, beam and plank flooring will contribute to a friendly shopping experience. This store will have our largest brand offering to date. Along with great beer we will offer our customer beer samplings, food pairings and beer knowledge sessions. The Beer Boutique is committed to enhancing the overall beer experience. To that end we will be selling beer glasses so that the consumer can enjoy their style of beer in the proper beer glass.

There are rumours of more Beer Boutique's opening across Ontario in the near future - can you comment on that? And if so, I hear another one is rumoured to be opened in Toronto by years end.
The Beer Boutique is a unique concept and is not right for every community within our trade area. However, that being said, we are exploring many sites that do fit our model. We will be making an announcement later this summer regarding a second location in the GTA.

Getting more smaller craft breweries into these stores must be a priority, judging by the direction the Ontario beer market is heading. Is the Beer Store looking to attract more craft breweries and their seasonal products?
We have had many meetings with the craft brewers and based on the interest level shown we assume that our craft offering will continue to grow. We are constantly working to provide our customers with a selection of great beer, both seasonal and core.

Is the Beer Boutique the Beer Store's response to the shift in consumer spending at the LCBO level? Or because TBS understands that they need to freshen their urban image?
The Beer Store has a set strategy when it comes to improving our retail effectiveness. The Boutique concept is one of many tactics that will be executed this year. We believe that The Beer Boutique speaks dynamically to the urban consumer who we have recognized as a customer that we need to better serve.

And finally, is there anything else taking place within the Beer Store that you'd like to share?
The Beer Store is evolving. We have invested in significant customer research and now will be taking action. We will be launching a new consumer centric web site (since launched) and mobile app this summer. We are more focused than ever on creating a great shopping experience in all of our stores. We are working diligently and change takes time.


Chris said...

Good blog Troy. Their number one priority should be to get all Ontario Craft beer into these stores. I don't want to see Bud, Canadian and Coors Light in my face when I enter this "boutique" store like that other store.

Teena in Toronto said...

Can't wait for this to come to our 'hood!

Phillip said...

I'm looking forward to seeing the Boutique open. I live in the area. Here's hoping that they'll be a good selection of craft beer though!

Stephen Beaumont said...

If you read Paterson's responses carefully, you'll see that all he really says is: a) The Beer Boutique will host tastings; and b) The Beer Boutique will sell glassware. And given that the LCBO was effectively challenged to stop selling extraneous (ie: non-booze) products in years past, I question if the latter effort will prove viable in the long term.

In other words, all I take away from this is that the Beer Boutique will be a tarted up Beer Store with tastings and smaller package sizes. A step forward, certainly, but hardly a giant step outside of the box for TBS.

I, for one, will visit the new store when it opens, if only to see what they have done, but expect to continue confining my beer purchases to the LCBO.

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