Without a doubt, COVID-19 has affected the DC beer market, forcing local breweries and beer retailers to pivot their current sales models, furlough employees, or unfortunately, close their doors.
Some retailers have been able to stay afloat by quickly pivoting their models to online and delivery services, which enables them to connect directly to the consumer. Les Shaver, a reporter for the Blueprint, identified the quick changes made by The Brew Shop, an Arlington-based craft brew store in his recent article How One Small Beer Shop Tapped Into Online Sales in Response to COVID-19.
In 2016, Julie Drews and Beth Helle left their accounting jobs and started the Brew Shop in Arlington, Virginia. The store features a variety of local, regional, and national craft beers. Earlier this year, the founders began looking for ways to expand their current market by selling to businesses that could purchase their inventory in bulk. Drews identified that “there are a lot of offices in the neighborhood, and a lot of offices have Kegerators and just serve alcohol as a regular thing. We were thinking about how to target the right companies, since not every corporate culture has that kind of environment.” However, COVID-19 caused many of those businesses to switch to working from home, so the two owners had to reconsider this method with the additional issues of maintaining social distancing between employees and customers within the store.
“Everyone was very cool and understanding,” Drews says. “We had people waiting outside, but that lasted only about a week. It was just uncomfortable for our employees and for us to try to function and move around. We’re trying to stay far enough away from people, but our store is not that big. It’s hard to do that when you’ve got customers.”
Ultimately, the co-owners decided that the risks outweighed the benefits, and they closed the shop to walk-ins, but they still had a rising demand for their inventory. This drove them to consider two big adjustments to their business:
● A more streamlined online shopping experience for their customers by using a point-of- sale processor, ShopKeep, and
● A stronger email marketing effort to maintain contact with customers who normally would be at the store in-person.
So how did these changes help their business? Drews says “We’re seeing people purchasing more at one time, and there are some people we’re delivering to every third week. They are probably spending the same as what they used to spend. They’re just doing it in chunks now.”