Oct. 29, 2009 — -- What makes a grocery store stand out from its competitors? Try a fresh, cold beer on tap.
Last week, a Piggly Wiggly store in Myrtle Beach, S.C. introduced taps dispensing craft beers into growlers -- half-gallon, glass containers also sold at the store -- for $9.99 to $12.99. As with Piggly Wiggly's more traditional alcohol offerings -- wine and canned and bottled beer -- customers aren't allowed to drink their purchases at the store. But what they lose in instant gratification, beer lovers might gain in savings.
"It's a lot cheaper to buy it from us than to pay $4 or $5 for a beer at a bar," said store manager Timmy Parrott.
Parrott's thinking seems to be increasingly popular among retailers large and small as more stores look to off-premises alcohol sales -- sales of alcohol outside of eateries and bars -- to grow their business and meet customer demand.
Earlier this year, the pharmacy chain Walgreens announced it was returning beer and wine to its store shelves after abandoning the products more than a decade earlier. Discount chain Family Dollar is testing beer sales at 10 of its Florida stores this year.
There was "a groundswell of interest saying, 'Hey, now that you've got these great coolers here, it'd be great if you stocked some beer too,' " said Family Dollar spokesman Josh Braverman.
Between Sept. 2008 and last month, the number of U.S. stores engaged in off-premises beer sales jumped by nearly 2,600 while wine sellers increased by more than 3,000, according to market research giant Nielsen. The increase occurred despite the fact that the total number of U.S. grocery stores, convenience stores, drug stores and others declined by more than 3,000.
"While there's lots of disarray going out there in general because of the economy, there are more stores that are deciding they want to get into the beverage alcohol business," said Danny Brager, vice president and group client director for the beverage alcohol team at Nielsen.