Craft Brewers Hope Mid-Week Holiday Doesn’t Slow Sales

As craft beer continues to mature and becomes more available in conventional retail channels, promotional periods like the Fourth of July are becoming increasingly important.

Boston Beer Company saw nearly 3 percent of its Symphony IRI tracked U.S. supermarket sales occur during the July 4th week last year. Longmont, Colo. based craft brewer Oskar Blues shared similar numbers from 2011. Brewery spokesperson Chad Melis said the company’s distributor depletions were 2.9 percent of annual orders during the week leading up to the Fourth of July.

According to Symphony IRI data, craft brewers sold 747,133 cases in U.S. Supermarkets last year, the third best-selling week behind Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Still, most craft brewers aren’t doing much in the way of targeted promotions or marketing initiatives. Aside from Boston Beer’s “Celebrate Independence” themed packaging, the main focus for many brewers simply ensuring that retailers have fresh product.

“We try to make sure all of our summer seasonal beers are in the stores leading up to this holiday,” said Brian Murphy, Director of Sales and Marketing for Massachusetts Beverage Alliance, a craft-centric wholesaler.

But with so many American’s reaching for suds this Independence Day, and large grocery chains focusing more attention on large domestic displays, it begs the question – why don’t more craft brewers focused on the Fourth of July promotions?

“We almost take the Fourth of July week for granted,” Bill Covaleski, the co-founder of Victory Brewing Company said. “The beer sort of sells itself.”

Indeed, like the MBA, many of the breweries Brewbound spoke with seemed more focused on seasonal styles overall than on targeting what is typically a boom week for the beer industry. The overall category typically witnesses 3 percent of total supermarket sales this week.

But if growth continues, things might change soon.

“For us it is a great sampling opportunity,” Dave Guender, the Director of Sales for Sweetwater Brewing said. “The buying occasions during the holidays, especially the Fourth, brings so many new customers into the fold.”

Covaleski agreed.

“We have seen this phenomenon where folks are proud of their newly discovered new craft selections and try to show them off to friends, family and neighbors,” he said.

Nevertheless, there’s one more issue that might hamper holiday sales. – the fact that the Fourth falls on a Wednesday this year.

“People may not party as late as they would if it fell on a Thursday or a Friday but that is pure speculation,” said Bill Covaleski, co-founder of Victory Brewing Company.

But Guender has a different outlook.

“It’s really hard to tell,” he said. “I am thinking that more people might take 3-day weekends both before and after the holiday, or maybe folks will take the entire week off and we will see some incremental sales that way.”

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