Just Get To The Point

It's a fact of politics that when an issue is first raised and first discussed, proponents and opponents will make every argument they can think of in their favor. But as the process moves forward and the issue is discussed more intensely, all pretense of supporters and opponents tend to fall away and are replaced by arguments based in pure self interest. Tennessee and wine sales in grocery store is a perfect example.

"Here we go again. If it happens it's going to change the way everyone does business."

Lisa Andrews, Jax Liquors

This is all that matters to Ms. Andrews. Convenience, fewer auto trips, access to products. None of this seems to matter in Ms. Andrews' mind. It's all about her. She opposes wine sales in Grocery stores because delivering consumers more convenience and more access to wine is bad for her business.

Earlier on the anti-grocery store sales folks talk about minors more easily getting access to wine. That didn't fly. They talked about big stores controlling the marketing and providing less choice. That didn't work. Now it's all about Lisa.

It's something of a cynical and manipulative process that lobbyists and politicians have come to understand and embrace as a matter of course. But it's really a waste of time.

It sure would speed up the process of politics if advocates just came straight out and stated what their self interest dictated instead of messing around with convoluted claims that don't get to the heart of the matter.

Posted In: Uncategorized


18 Responses

  1. Thomas Pellechia - November 19, 2008

    Lisa never realized that if wine went into grocery stores, she could put gourmet groceries into her wine store.
    Oh, wait: that would mean work.

  2. Thomas Pellechia - November 19, 2008

    I hit send too quickly:
    When I owned a retail wine shop in Manhattan, I prayed for wine in grocery store legislation. I had plans to add cheeses and other items that go with wine into my store.
    Nothing better than a fine shop with quality products that complement one another.

  3. Scott - November 19, 2008

    I am a wine and spirits retailer in Tennessee, and thought I would help set you straight about what’s afoot here. The change proposed to our state’s rules on wine creates a new class of retail wine license for grocery stores rather than allowing them the same one that has existed until now. Wine and liquor stores would not be allowed to add cheese, bread, or other comestibles to their stores. But grocery stores would be allowed to sell wine. The new class of license is different in a couple other profound ways as well. While since Prohibition was repealed, each licensee in the state is allowed only one license (and thereby only one location), the new class has no such limitation. That would be bad for WalMart and Kroger, but it’s ok for me. Also, the new class of license has no requirements attached for locally mandated distances from churches, schools, and the like. I’m all for competition and open markets, but may I please have a level playing field?
    I can’t believe that independent-minded people like you and Wark are rooting for WalMart and Target against me.

  4. Scott - November 19, 2008

    While I’m at it, I’d like to address you on the issue of availability and choice in a market like Tennessee. As many knowledgable and well-travelled wine lovers as we may have in our great state, let’s face it; this ain’t exactly Nob Hill, Manhattan, or South Beach. Tennessee continues to be a fairly blue-collar, beer drnking demographic. If you take a look at other markets in the Real South (i.e., not Florida or a certain portion of Atlanta) you will find that the selection of wines in the grocery stores is utterly atrocious. Witness row after row of wines with the curious name of Modesto on the back label and very little else. Something for a special occasion, sir? How about the lovely Vintner’s Reserve Merlot by Kendall-Jackson? I think a perfect place to take a gander would be Birmingham in Alabama, a place in many demographic ways very similar to a lot of Tennessee. Because nearly all the “wine” goes though the grocery stores, and the shelf sets are all controlled by a very few large wine companies and their local distibutors, real wine has no chance. And without the cashflow that those everyday plonk sales provide to a retailer, there is no serious boutique or hand-sell type of store in the city. They are in the wine equivalent of the Dark Ages.
    While the popular sentiment here seems to be that it sure would be nice to grab a mag of Woodbridge while picking up your pork rinds and Yoohoo, those of us who care about wine in Tennessee (wholesale, retail, and MOST importantly, consumers) know how much harder this will make it for a well-stocked and knowledgable wine retailer to exist here.

  5. Tom Wark - November 19, 2008

    What about the idea of outlawing the sale of soap in grocery stores? Or what about outlawing the sale of peaches? I can’t see why not. Wouldn’t the state of Tennessee want to encourage the proliferation of soap stores and peach stores?

  6. Dirty - November 20, 2008

    I lost you when you said…
    “the Real South (i.e., not Florida or a certain portion of Atlanta)”

  7. Scott - November 20, 2008

    Sick burn, dude. But you didn’t address a single point that I made. I believe I made a case that wine a la Piggly Wiggly in our state would be bad for wine lovers who care about selection and variety.

  8. Scott - November 20, 2008

    As to my comment about Florida and some quarters of Atlanta (think Buckhead) not being the South proper, stop 10 people on the street there anytime and ask them where they’re from. Jersey and NYC more than half. Which is cool, not that there’s anything wrong with it….but more money and more interest/knowledge of wine and food separates them from most of the rest of the South IMHO. Thanks for the chance to clarify that.

  9. Tom Wark - November 20, 2008

    For those who want a better selection and variety, they’ll have the specialty retailers like yourself.

  10. Thomas Pellechia - November 20, 2008

    The argument about selection has been used in NY as well, and it is truly lame. It actually works against you. If it’s true that grocery stores will not provide a good selection, then what have you got to fear?
    As for the law in Tennessee, if it’s true that small stores will not be allowed to add cheeses, breads, packaged items, etc. then I agree: you should fight against it until it does, and then get on board.

  11. Dirty - November 20, 2008

    In ATL, several supermarkets have raised the bar on wine retail. Not just for supermarkets, but outperforming and outservicing many specialty retailers.
    A few years ago, Kroger replaced the wine aisle of their Ansley Park location with a high-end, high service, wine department. Beyond your supermarket garanimal labels, think 1-3 growth BDX, GC and 1er Cru Burgs, Top Rhones, smoking Alsace, and CA Cult and semi-cult stuff that is normally mail-order only (they sometimes have Kosta Browne on the shelf). Along with the big names, they also have a huge selection of high quality, high value juice.
    As a consumer this rocks and is a virtual Candyland. A consumer can grab groceries, look over a recipe, bring it to the wine department and say “I want to spend $40, what would work with this?”
    I can see how it shook up retailers, but for the consumer how is this a bad thing?
    Back to the indy retailer–
    As much as I love the Ansley Kroger setup, independent retailers still get way more than 70% of my business (Ansley Kroger may get 10%). I only buy wine from Kroger when I am short on time and have to combine purchases with grocery shopping, or on a whim when I am rolling the cart by the department. These are 1-2 bottle impulse purchases and at times where I would have never stepped into the independent retailer.
    An interesting study would be to see how Ansley Wine Merchants, a small independent retailer located about 500yds from Ansley Kroger, has dealt with this situation. They may have felt a pinch at first, but seem to have gone above and beyond to retain and grow their customer base. Ansley Kroger has savvy shoppers, Ansley Wine Merchants has crazy fans. Ansley Wine Merchants sells no cheese, food, or specialty crap- Just wine, some beer, and little booze. Maybe this change wasn’t pleasant for them. I’m sure they hustle more, but in the end, I buy more from them now than ever, and I bring in people to them now who do the same.
    On a side note-
    (Scott– Your opinion of Buckhead as 50% transplants and non-Southern is greatly exaggerated. There are probably more native ATLiens [multi-generation ATLiens] living in Buckhead than any other part of town, and many would defend their “proper” South to their end. Are you confusing Buckhead with Charlotte?
    Also, the 90% of FL that is off the coast or away from Disney World, might just scare the Duke Boys over the Mason Dixon line. Even I get nervous down there- Thems there are swamp people!!!! )

  12. Thomas Pellechia - November 20, 2008

    I understand what you are saying about the specialty retailing, but it is patently unfair to allow wine to be sold in large grocery stores and then to prevent small wine retailers from selling food items. It doesn’t even jive logically.
    If I were a cynic, I’d think the law was purposely stacked against small retailing. Oh, wait. I am a cynic!

  13. Scott - November 21, 2008

    It sounds as if I may be a bit off base in my estimation of the conentration of transplants in Atlanta, so thanks for the info. I think that if the proposed change happens, it will be like a game of extreme musical chairs. I agree with you and with Wark that there will still be room for a handful of specialty stores that serve needs that a grocery won’t. But, as things stand now, nearly every wine/liquor store that is in an area where it’s viable already has a selection of wines that would probably surprise you. If it’s all we can sell (which it is), why wouldn’t you push your selection to reasonable max? So, I think where there may be 10-12 pretty serious retailers in area X, the loss of the plonk sales to the grocery wil whittle that number down to one or two.

  14. Scott - November 21, 2008

    The proposed legislation has been changed once to throw us the bone of allowing us to sell ice, non-alc mixers, wine glasses, and (paraphrasing) “such articles as may usually be considered used to mix or serve alcoholic beverages.” If that’s not the exact phrasing, it’s pretty close.
    It would not allow us to sell cheese, bread, pasta, olive oil, yadayada. It also prevents convenience stores from jumping into the game by requiring a licensee under the new class to offer for sale fresh meats and breads. This definition of “grocery store” lets Kroger an Publix in the door, but excludes the corner SlurpeeHut.
    It’s constantly amazing to read on so many wine/wine industry blogs how the cigar-chomping, back-slapping wine and spirits evildoers control the laws that govern our business. But this time it’s the grocery store lobby that is writing its own way to a protected position in TN.
    It’s also interesting to listen to America pay lip service to the good old days of neighborhood, mom-and-pop retail businesses, when their actions and purchasing decisions speak volumes in contradiction.
    “Freedom of choice is what you’ve got; freedom from choice is what you want.”

  15. Dylan - November 21, 2008

    As far as self-interest and politics are concerned, I don’t know when that was ever not the case. I’m not surprised by it in anyway, people vote for themselves and make decisions based on what’s best for them (and in some cases what’s best for them means what’s best for a loved one or friend.) I agree people should be more forward about their self-interest in the process, but now the important step in making the decision is validating the worth of these fears: is wine in grocery stores going to be bad for her business? If so, how many businesses like hers will it effect and how profoundly? If the conclusion is that it’s worth it, it’s up to Ms. Andrews and anyone else affected to find ways to make the new law work in their favor.

  16. Thomas Pellechia - November 21, 2008

    “If the conclusion is that it’s worth it, it’s up to Ms. Andrews and anyone else affected to find ways to make the new law work in their favor.”
    Not if the conclusion isn’t universally accepted. I think small retailers should fight anything that does not give them the opportunity to become grocers if they want to, and sell wine as well.
    What’s the bill saying? There are two separate wine retail licenses: one for small retailers and one for large retailers, and that the small retailers can’t sell food but the large retailers must sell food?
    That makes no sense, unless the point is to perpetrate a blatant screw job on small wine shops.
    And Scott, imagine if you operated a large wine distributorship; wouldn’t you like the4 ability to make large drops in just a few grocery stores over a bunch of small drops at a number of small stores? don’t think distributors won’t gain from such a ruling–they will, unless the grocers have a bigger and wealthier lobby than the alcohol people.

  17. Scott - November 22, 2008

    I think there is some ambivalence on the part of the distributors on this issue. On the one hand, as you say, it would streamline their process somewhat. But on the other hand, they are in a superior position as things stand now in the profit department. Negotiating wine purchases and shelf position against BigBox is a lot more costly than dealing with a long list of independent retailers with only one outlet per licensee. They are and have always been in a “buy it or don’t” mindset when it comes to pricing in this state. I think the advent of selling to a statewide, multiple license entity would certainly shrink gross profit margins for them.

  18. Thomas Pellechia - November 22, 2008

    As long as wholesalers have the law on their side, their profits will always be under good protections.
    For grocers to demand things, wouldn’t the grocers have to get the laws altered to suit their needs? Gee, that thought alone, makes the grocery store possibilities even more appealing 😉
    For instance, in New York, to get that front space in a grocery store for those stacks of Coca Cola, et al, the producer pays big time. But paying for floor space for alcohol is against the law–not that it isn’t done, just that it’s done in creative ways, like creating a dummy advertising invoice business–oops, I gave a secret away…

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