Clown Shoes Beer and Quality Wine & Spirits Have Bad Breakup
(Ipswich,MA) – Our friends over at Clown Shoes Beer have reported on a not so nice breakup between themselves and Georgia based distributor Quality Wine & Spirits. This is an interesting look behind the scenes of the craft beer business. Sadly this won’t be the first or last time something like this happens between a craft brewer and a distributor.
On September 8th 2014 we received this email from the head of the beer division for Quality Wine & Spirits, our Georgia wholesaler:
I am writing today with a bit of bad news. Quality is getting out of the beer business. As of Sept 30th of this year we will no longer sell beer.
The future of the beer program has been a topic of internal discussion for some time. We are in the midst of a comprehensive IT overhaul and it became clear that the cost of coding the new system to deal with beer was going to be prohibitively expensive. Furthermore we are dealing with very real set of space constraints in our warehouse. Beer takes up a lot of space and on a profit-per-square foot basis isn’t generating the kind of revenue that wine and spirits do. Add to this the challenges with perishability and the logistical nightmare posed by kegs and it became clear that we needed to focus on what we are good at.
For my part, while I always ran 100% of our beer program, beer was not 100% of my portfolio responsibilities. I will be re-focusing my attention on the dozens of wineries that fall under my umbrella.
We are working on clearing out inventory and while we have discounted we have not done so in such a way that will cause you any problems with price in the market. Presuming that you wish to continue selling in the Georgia market you will need to find alternative distribution. Once you have identified a distributor please put them in touch with us and we will work out the transfer of distribution rights.
If you have any questions feel free to give me a call. I regret that we will not be able to work together moving forward and I wish you nothing but success.
In good faith we began the search for a new wholesaler, eventually making a decision.
The wholesaler we have chosen wishes to pick up the brand, and we were in the process of working on an arrangement when we learned the owner of Quality was “shopping” our brand, meaning he wanted to sell the distribution rights.
This attempt to move our brand was done without any discussion with us. For Quality to reach out to all beer wholesalers, looking for a high bidder, was a perplexing way to conduct business, as the brand cannot be reassigned without our approval.
I called the owner of Quality and informed him where we wanted to go. At first things seemed fine, as it was indicated that a deal with our newly selected wholesaler should be achievable. It turns out this was not the case.
The wholesaler we chose, and for that matter all other beer wholesalers, refused to make an offer to Quality. Why? Because Quality had already announced plans to get out of the beer business. Everybody questioned: why on Earth should they pay for something that will be available soon for free?
When Quality’s inability to make a deal became clear, I requested our release as of September 30th. The owner of Quality refused, claiming he still wanted time to make a deal.
Then Quality did an about face and said they want to stay in the Clown Shoes Beer business, at least until a deal could be done. The problem? The beer division has been dissolved. The beer manager has been reassigned. The salespeople have already announced to their customers they are out of the beer business.
I asked Quality for a plan to continue sales and was told by the former beer manager that he was not sure how well they would do, as he had been reassigned and that he did not have a “crystal ball.” Then he sent me an order that was about 1/5 the size of a normal order, which we refused to ship.
I have left numerous messages over the past week for ownership and management at Quality asking for clarity. No response.
It appears Quality does not care that the business we do in Georgia is important to Clown Shoes. They have pulled the rug out from us on our relationships with bars, retailers, and consumers that we worked hard to establish. The lost revenue matters (it actually does), but an inability to maintain our relationships is worse.
It feels like we have taken a cavalier, unexpected, and unethical shot to the chin. From a friend.
Georgia, we love you, but until Quality Wine and Spirits gives us our release, we cannot ship you beer.