A “Force of Voices”
Who makes a difference and how do they do it?
This has been the primary question that has defined my experience to this point working with Specialty Wine Retailers Association as their executive director. In the course of four short months this organization of progressive wine merchants has found themselves in political and legislative battles in four states. SWRA’s record this year in fighting to open markets for the folk that provide wine to consumers is 1-0-2. Without getting into that record, suffice to say that I’ve learned a thing or two about that question that has defined the past four months.
What I’ve learned about making a difference is that it’s all about the tools at your disposal and the traditions that dictate how those tools are used.
Take for example America’s wine wholesalers. It should be abundantly clear that their success in reducing the competition they wish to face is directly linked to buying access to politicians with what can only be described as obscene amounts of cash. This in turn allows them to buy influence and favorable legislation to protect their already state-mandated monopoly. I’d like SWRA to eventually get to the point where they can buy access…assuming the game is still played in this way when that day comes.
But right now SWRA doesn’t have this kind of tool at its disposal (give us time, however).
Then there are Retailers. My guys. In large part the membership of SWRA represents that portion of the wine retail industry that understands the future of successful wine retailing means being able to access the Internet based, national marketplace. These are folks who think long term, smartly, and who see the big picture. The tools at wine retailer’s disposal is two-fold: the law and consumers.
Without discussing the law, I can say that in the past four months I’ve yet to come across a consumer of wine willing to say that "retailers should not be allowed to ship wine into my state." In fact, I’ve come across mostly consumers who say, "you mean they are trying to stop retailers from shipping wine to my state???" The point is, consumers and wine retailers are natural allies in this strange battle over who will get to have access to a market.
This relationship is very important mainly because prior to the creation of SWRA there has not been any organization in America that was willing to always come to the defense of consumers and retailers when wine wholesalers and others in the wine industry chose brazenly to throw wine merchants and wine consumers under the bus when it came to direct shipping laws.
This is why SWRA created their Consumer Outreach E-mail List. Those who sign up to be on this list will get regular communications from SWRA about threats to consumer access to wine from across the country, updates on SWRA activities, with information about who is trying to control wine shipping laws through political contributions and about what consumers can do to shop anti-competitive and anti-consumer legislation.
Given the number of customers that progressive wine merchants have across the country in numerous markets it is entirely reasonable to believe that a real "force of voices" can be gathered together to confront what is clearly an invigorated national effort to stop consumers from purchasing wine from retailers via the Internet and phone.
If you want to sign up to be on this information list, click here: SWRA Consumer Outreach E-Mail List