Nar One Left: When Your Drink of Choice Disappears from the Liquor Store Shelves

If you've picked up a new favourite drink in the past year, its days on the shelf may already be numbered.

If you’ve picked up a new favourite drink in the past year, its days on the shelf may already be numbered.

As Newfoundlanders and Labradorians expand their palates, the demand for niche categories such premium scotches, craft beers, and vintages from smaller wineries expands. A 12-period sales cycle, roughly a year, is the amount of the time that a new product gets to make an impression before it gets phased out.

Greg Gill, Director of Marketing and Communications for the NLC, says demand for the ever new, especially among the NLC’s younger audience, is a big driver of the turnover of product listings.

“If you want variety, you have to be constantly on your toes to put the right product mix in play,” says Gill. Delivering what’s on trend and what looks like the next big thing in beverages, as well as offering various price points, varieties, and different countries of origin in each category all come into play.

“It’s a little bit of art, it’s a little bit of science,  it’s certainly not a perfect process, but it’s something we take very seriously,” says Gill. “Our goal is to offer the best product mix we can.”

Sometimes the result is disappointment for those newly converted to a particular brand that suddenly disappears. “You get customers that are coming in upset about a particular product listing decision,” says Gill. “We’re trained to deal with that. We’re here to listen.” Either online or in person, Gill says NLC staff can offer recommendations on similar products.

On occasion, the disappearance of a product may simply be a seasonal change-up, with its return slated for the future. A product that performs well on repeat appearances can earn a permanent place in the store line-up.

“Sometimes seasonal products get brought on a general listings,” says Gill. Other times, the province may have already maxed out its allotment of a particular brand for that period. Supply allowing, that product will return in the future.

Ultimately, decisions on the shelf life of a particular product lie with one person: the Brand Manager. it’s a significant amount of responsibility: one Brand Manager will oversee the entirety of decisions for a single portfolio – say wine or beer – for the whole province.

“The Category Manager’s responsibility is to continually review their categories. They review sales performance and they look at trends. They talk to their counterparts in other liquor jurisdictions. It’s their job to do their homework and really have their finger on the pulse in the category for which they are responsible.”

Is there merit in pushing back when your favourite disappears from the shelves? Gill says the vocal support from customers can be an important part of listing decisions. So much so, they may consider listing the product again.

For die-hard fans of a certain beverage, Gill says there is still the option of a private order. “If that product is not coming back to market, and it’s something you really can’t live without — something you really, really want for a special occasion — there’s a private order process.” All those details are on their website, but there’s typically a minimum quantity required for private orders, so they can be a little more costly.

What’s the next big trend on the horizon? Gill says it’s the return of cocktail culture.

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