- October 12, 2017
To be a successful distributor owner these days, you can’t be complacent,” says Greg Ramirez, owner of Exton Beverage. “You have to change with the times. With grocery and convenience store competition, we have to offer customers what they want, in an environment where they feel comfortable. I’ve decided to take the curveball we’ve been thrown and hit a home run.”
Heady Times (HT): The laws governing the sale of beer in PA have changed dramatically. Are traditional distributors at a disadvantage?
Greg Ramirez (GR): Some folks say it’s more convenient to buy your beer and eggs in the same place, but I disagree. If people want the option of being in and out quickly, with short lines, a beer distributor is the place to buy. And if they want to browse, they can do so in a less crowded environment, with staff who are educated and happy to help them find whatever they are looking for. And our pricing is competitive with grocery stores.
HT: What else have you done to stay competitive with grocery and convenience stores?
GR: Since the package laws have changed, we’ve made several changes to our layout. I felt the store needed a major facelift and I wanted to get away from the warehouse feel. It’s now a welcoming space to shop in.
To accommodate the new packages, we got rid of our pallet shelving and installed gondola or “retail” shelving, with both full case and 12-pack pricing posted for every product. We also dropped the ceiling, added LED lighting and had a 12-door cooler installed to house 6-packs and some 12-packs.
We’ve also added heating and air conditioning. The climate controlled environment encourages customers to shop a little longer. And it’s better for the beer. It’s no longer exposed to extreme temperature fluctuations.
But most importantly, we offer a tremendous variety. Our selection really wows customers. People are much more informed and serious about beer today. It’s so funny that it’s cool to be a geek these days.
HT: Is there a downside to selling such a large variety of beer?
GR: Yes… space. We have a very large store, but with 10 products, on average, coming in every week (seasonals included) it’s difficult to find the shelf space.
HT: How has the installation of your cooler changed your business? Are single serves a viable package for distributors?
GR: Some customers are still surprised to see a distributor selling 6-packs! We made sure to put the cooler up front to catch their attention and single serves are displayed near the register for the same reason. The positioning has also helped with impulse purchases. I’m starting to see tried and true domestic drinkers pick up a 6-pack of craft – consumers of all types are exploring.
HT: What makes you stand out from other retailers the most?
GR: We have one of the largest selections of sixtels (nearly 300!) in the Philadelphia five county area.
HT: Wow! Why sixtels?
GR: Demand is high (Exton Beverage sells several hundred a month) and I think it’s a great package that not many distributors take advantage of. The first time I saw a sixtel, I knew they were ideal for home systems. With 1/2 and 1/4 kegs, the beer loses some of its freshness because it’s not drunk fast enough. Sixtels are the perfect size to ensure freshness. In Chester County, beer meisters are staple appliances – like dishwashers – a ton of people have them. We also sell kegerators at the store, and for those who are interested, we are able to convert a single faucet system into a double or triple faucet tower.
HT: Do you use any technology to inform shoppers about your selection?
GR: They are listed on our website, which is updated every half hour, but we encourage customers to call for availability. In store, it’s even easier for customers to shop our extensive selection. An interactive, scrolling screen, which lists every sixtel in stock, complete with availability and pricing, is mounted on the wall. It’s linked to our POS system, so once a sixtel is purchased, the availability is updated in real time. Customers browse the list, choose which they want, and we’ll bring it out to their car. We’ve used the system for years and customers love it.
HT: What will you do in the future to remain a premiere destination beer store?
GR: I’d like to solidify my customer base and position the store for the long haul. To me that means understanding customers’ buying patterns and catering to them. The more outlets that begin selling beer, the more we need to evolve and roll with the changes to stay a viable option for consumers.
Extonbeverage.com • 310 East Lincoln Highway, Exton, PA 19341 • 610-363-7020