Beverage Makers Get Into Experiential Retail Spirits

Beverage Makers

Beverage brands are getting in the experiential retail spirit by crafting new spaces dedicated to encouraging libation aficionados to try out their products. Diageo’s Johnnie Walker, for instance, has set up a space dedicated to its whiskey not too far from Scotland over in Madrid, Spain. It will serve both “Scotch lovers and whisky novices alike,” according to a company announcement.

For customers looking to learn more about the products, the space will be home to experiences such as whisky tastings and classes that are designed to get customers immersed in the brand — and Scotch, in general. At the same time, consumers can “discover the craft of cocktail making” through an interactive hosting experience and also experience a tasting table. The idea is to create a place where the brand can feature its products — and consumers can discover them.

Johnnie Walker Global Brand Director John Williams said in an announcement about the new space, “we’re always looking for new ways to surprise and engage our customers and this kind of experiential Johnnie Walker flagship store does just that. It also adds a sense of fun and discovery to shopping and is a whole new way of experiencing the diversity and rich heritage of Johnnie Walker.”

There will be shopping for customers looking to bring home a souvenir, of course, and consumers can buy rare and “exceptional” single malts. They can also look at curated limited-edition collaborations that are exclusive to the space. In addition, shoppers can buy gifts along with custom engravings and labels. (Shoppers may want evidence that they made the trip, after all.)

In its announcement, Johnnie Walker noted that the rollout of its retail experience comes on the heels of an announcement of a major investment in scotch tourism by Diageo in Switzerland — to the tune of £150 million. Those plans include the opening of a visitor experience for Johnnie Walker in Edinburgh. That is ahead of the brand’s 200th anniversary, which is not too far into the future as it arrives in 2020.

Why Madrid? According to Bloomberg, the company said it decided to open the facility in the city because it is a big destination for tourists, and, besides, Scotch is popular in Spain. Bloomberg Intelligence Analyst Duncan Fox also noted, “it makes sense for Diageo, under pressure to position its Johnnie Walker whisky as a luxury brand, to open its first experiential flagship store in Madrid.” At the same time, Fox said that he believes more stores will come to fruition in the future.

The Experiential Beer Experience

The Scotch brand is hardly the only spirit to have a space dedicated all to itself. Another Diageo brand, Guinness, brought a $90 million brewery to Maryland that welcomes visitors with experiential retail components. It should be noted that the company doesn’t open a brewery every day: the Maryland facility is the company’s first new brewery in 60 years.

The brewery, which is located just outside of Baltimore, may bring in 300,000 visitors a year to its facilities, which are said to include a brew house, restaurant, tap room and gift shop. Many of the taproom’s beers will be brewed on the property and the experience is designed to allow beer aficionados to focus on the brews. To that end, the taproom won’t have televisions, nor will it serve any libations aside from the famous beer, according to early reports prior to the brewery’s opening.

Why is Guinness opening a brewery in the U.S.? As it stands, the U.S. beer market is worth whopping $111 billion. Guinness has a stable foothold in the market, as the ninth-biggest brand in terms of sales. But there’s always room for another round: Brewers Association Chief Economist Bart Watson told CNBC, “they’re looking for ways to grow their market and this is one viable strategy.”

Will facilities like Guinness’ brewery in Maryland and the new Johnnie Walker experience in Spain get beverage-seekers ordering these companies’ products more often at bars or at stores? That remains to be seen, but the latest openings show that beverage makers are seeing brick-and-mortar spaces as a way to reach consumers — and promote their brands in a branded setting where consumers can give them a try.


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