What’s Brewing? Hit the Road with Target’s Regional Beer Buyer

April 7, 2016 - Article reads in
A case of craft beers in a Target liquor store

About a year ago, after working for more than eight years in Target’s supply chain operations and dry grocery business, Dan Connell was … let’s say tapped … to become our first-ever regional beer buyer.

Sound like a dream job? According to Dan, it is—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Beer is a booming business for Target, and trends like local and craft beers and ciders are on the rise, accounting for more than a quarter of our total liquor sales, more than twice as much as a typical liquor store. One of Target’s major priorities is figuring out new ways to offer guests more locally relevant products and experiences. And as it turns out, there are few things that inspire local pride more than beer.

Two shelves filled with colorfully labeled bottles of craft beer.

“The tricky part is, every city, town and market is fiercely loyal to its own set of local and craft labels, so across the map, our assortments have to look very different,” says Dan. With more than 4,000 craft breweries nationwide (and three more popping up every other day) staying on top of all that’s brewing, from Allagash (Portland, Maine) to Zombie Dust (3 Floyds Brewery, Munster, Ind.), is no small task … but the results are worth the work.

Dan’s job is to methodically comb the country—market by market, zip code by zip code—to figure out which local brews matter most in each area. He and fellow beer buyer Alli Beatty hit the road to visit key markets a few times a month. They’re sure to seek out the self-described “beer geeks” on our store teams at every stop, who are always eager to report on what the locals are pouring.

A display and an endcap with IPAs in a Chicago store.

Here are a few pieces of wisdom Dan’s picked up along the way:

“In Richmond, Va., which is home to one of the hottest craft brew scenes in the country, a little Blue Ridge Mountain brewery called Devil’s Backbone is Target’s top-seller, outselling the biggest brands in the business.” 

“In Illinois, craft beer sales are up 40 percent from last year in Target stores with brands like Revolution, Two Brothers and Goose Island leading the way.”

Interior shot of Target's Knollwood, MN, liquor store

“In Target’s home state of Minnesota, craft beer is a $750-million industry, and the number of breweries has more than doubled in the last four years. We use our Target liquor stores in Minnesota like test labs, and the extra test space in those formats is helping us push boundaries on craft beer and cider a lot farther.” Among the local favorites are Summit and Schell's.

Over the past year alone, Target has grown its local craft beer portfolio from 100 brands to more than 300, all carefully chosen based on our local guests’ tastes and feedback. For the brewers, Dan says, selling beer at Target gives a small business a big opportunity to grow, expanding their reach beyond taprooms and specialty stores to tens of thousands of guests who aren’t afraid to take a sip of something new.

Want to learn more? Check out more of the beers, ciders and wines we offer at your local Target or Target.com

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