It’s interesting that 50% of respondents said “occasionally”, which suggests that they will contemplate using a specialist, but for various reasons don’t do so regularly. I would hazard a guess that the main reason was not price but simply convenience – while people recognise the appeal of the specialist, they won’t go too far out of their way to visit one. This is reflected by Jesusjohn’s comment on the poll:
I perhaps would more often if there were one close by. I live in Hackney - and for all the proliferation of lifestyle bars and delis, we still lack a beer specialist. My nearest, I'd wager, is Utobeer at Borough Market - a very pricey offer, if understandably so. Even so, with Waitrose stocking Thornbridge, White Shield, Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams, it stocks enough decent stock for me to have something good in the fridge. Tesco's BrewDog Imperial IPA is also worthy of honourable mention. I would still go to a specialist - and indeed do on occasion - but it would have to be a local resource. With online purchasing also available for rare beers, it's simply too much effort for too little reward to go out of my way to a specialist. And bar selection has also improved immeasurably in the area. One final point - a beer shop that really does deserve more praise is Bacchanalia in Cambridge. Absolutely first rate.As I’ve said before, I do call in about monthly at the Bottle Stop in Bramhall when I’m passing nearby, but, as it’s about six miles away in a direction I don’t routinely go in, I don’t feel it’s worth making a special journey more frequently. I would also say that their previously very impressive selection of German – especially Bavarian – imports has been rather reduced in recent years. It seems that German beers aren’t very fashionable nowadays. On the other hand, their prices are roughly on a par with undiscounted supermarket prices, so you’re not expected to pay an arm and a leg.
If you want to make a success of a specialist off-licence, it would seem you need to be careful to get both your location and social mix of catchment area right.