Cheaper Than Water? Retailers Try to Unload Bud Light.

On a recent muggy Sunday afternoon, customers strolled the aisles of the Glenn Miller’s Beer & Soda Warehouse, where overhead fans circulated hot air.

In the Pennsylvania community of Lemoyne, just across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg, people heading to picnics, graduation parties, and other gatherings walk past countless displays of beer piled high with cases of top brands. I entered the store like a breeze.

Next to a 30-pack of Miller Lights retailing for $24.99, Bud Lights were piled high. A large banner above it stated that his 30-pack was priced at just $8.99 after the rebate.

Andy Wagner, a veteran manager who has worked at the store for 18 years, said Miller Lite is selling well. And what about Bud Light? Not so much.

Wagner noted that since mid-April, sales of Bud Light at the store have dropped 45% compared to a year ago, adding, “At the moment, we’re doing more than some cases of water we sell behind the scenes.” cheap,” he said. “It doesn’t move like it used to.”

It’s been almost three months since transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney posted a video promoting the Bud Light contest on his Instagram account, sparking outrage and boycotts from the right wing online. But beer brands are still struggling to win back longtime loyal customers.

For over 20 years, Bud Light has been America’s best-selling beer. Last year’s sales exceeded $5 billion, accounting for about 9% of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s sales. Since the boycott, however, Bud Light has been usurped by Modelo Especial. Data from research firm NIQ and analysis by consulting firm Bump Williams show that in the four weeks to mid-June, Bud Light’s nationwide sales fell an average of 29% year-over-year.

Anheuser-Busch stock has also fallen more than 15% since early April. The company did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Anheuser-Busch North America Zone Chief Executive Brendan Whitworth admitted in an interview with CBS This Morning Wednesday that the past few weeks have been “testing” for the brand.

“The buzz around Bud Light is moving away from beer,” Whitworth said, adding that he was responsible for the impact the controversy had on the company’s employees, customers and distribution partners. He said, “The conversation has become a dichotomy, but Bud Light doesn’t belong there.”

Whitworth did not directly respond to a question about whether the campaign would run again with transgender influencers.

“There’s a big social debate going on right now, and big brands are right in the middle of it,” he said. “And it’s not just our industry or Bud Light. It’s happening in retail. It’s happening in fast food.

“So what we need to understand is consumers and what they want, what they care about, and what they expect from big brands.”

With the summer sales season in full swing, the four months from May to August account for 40% of annual beer sales. The question swirling around Bud Light is whether the recession is temporary or the new normal.

“It’s been about 10 weeks since we started, and we’re still seeing double-digit volume declines nationwide,” said Bump Williams, who runs his eponymous consulting firm. “This is no longer an anomaly. This is a worrying trend.”

In fact, according to a study released this month, most major beer distributors and wholesalers (intermediaries who buy brands from beer companies such as Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors and sell them to stores, restaurants and bars) He expects this effect to last six months or more. by Wall Street investment bank Jefferies. His one-third of distributors believe that Bud’s influence on Wright will be lasting.

Wagner said he made a mistake by violating what Anheuser-Busch marketing called the “bar rule.” It means “neither politics nor religion”. He said Glenn Miller’s never allowed local politicians to put up signs in and around the store to keep customers away.

Asked how long he expects the decline in sales to last, Wagner shrugged. “I’ve seen long-time Bud Light customers try other beers,” he says. “If you find something you like, you may never come back.”

Beer distributors, many of which are independent or family-owned businesses, are keenly aware of Bud Light’s declining sales.

Steve Tatum, general manager of family-owned Bama Budweiser in Montgomery, Alabama, paid for local radio commercial To discuss the backlash against Bud Light. “Bama Budweiser is also outraged by this and has made their feelings known to senior Anheuser-Busch executives,” Tatum said in the ad. He added that at his company, an independent wholesaler, “about 100 people live here, work here and their children go to school here.”

Tatum did not respond to a request for comment.

Anheuser-Busch also appears to be trying to remind the public of the people behind the beer. The company on Wednesday unveiled an advertising campaign, “We Make the Beer,” which highlights the many steps involved in making beer and the people behind them. He also hinted that the popular character Bud Knight could be brought back to advertising as part of an effort to overcome the controversy.

The company also buys back or replaces cases of Bud Light in distributors’ warehouses when they reach the “best before” date. In June, the company announced a multi-tiered plan to dealers, including the payment of sales incentives and reimbursement of fares and fuel costs by the end of the year, according to the Beer Business Daily.

For Glenn Millers, the impact of the Bud Light controversy hasn’t had much of a business impact. The retailer, which began operations in 1986, sells his 1,500 brands of beer in its 18,000-square-foot warehouse.

“If consumers decide not to buy Bud Light, which is down 30% year-to-date, they may find something else to try,” Glenn Miller’s CEO Rodney Miller said in an email. No,’ he said. (Mr. Miller founded the retail store with his father, Glenn.)

Mr. Wagner echoed these sentiments as he walked the aisles of the store.

“It’s not like they stopped drinking beer,” he said of his customers. “They just stopped buying Bud Light.”

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