retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• Kroger announced that associates in its Columbus, Ohio, division have ratified an agreement the company reached with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 75.  
The agreement covers approximately 3,000 associates in Toledo and Northwest Ohio working in 26 stores and 12 fuel centers.

USA Today reports that Anheuser-Busch will use a strategy of sampling in bars and rolling out a new, “hipper” ad campaign designed to make its flagship Budweiser brand more relevant to the 21-30 demographic.

According to the story, “The hype culminates on Sept. 29, when the brand hosts the ‘Budweiser National Happy Hour,’ a bid by Bud to nudge folks to at least try a free brewski. The free samples for those 21 and up range from 6 ounces to 12 ounces, depending on state and local rules.

“At issue: a brand that's lost mojo. Bud unit sales were down 9% last year and are down the same this year, says Beverage Marketing Corp. Beer drinkers have lost loyalty to Bud for the past seven years, research firm Brand Keys reports. Bud's ranking among national product brands slipped from 16th in 2003 to 220th in 2010.”

• Also on the beer front, the Chicago Tribune reports that “while overall beer sales fell by 2 percent last year, the first decline in six years, the craft segment keeps growing. Craft beers still account for just 4.5 percent of U.S. consumption, but sales have increased by about 50 percent over the last five years, according to Beer Marketer's Insights. And that's got big brewers looking for a bigger piece of the action.

“It's particularly evident in Chicago, where Guinness, an import owned by London-based Diageo is testing a craft beer-like specialty brew, Guinness Black Lager in local bars, groceries and liquor stores. Chicago-based MillerCoors, meanwhile, has established an independent division, christened Tenth and Blake Beer Co., to nurture its craft and import beers, including Blue Moon, Leinenkugel, Peroni and Pilsner Urquell.”
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