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Vice President Athenee Importers

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Is wine in NY supermarkets really a bad thing?

Over the past few weeks the debate and discussion has been going on regarding legislation that may be introduced in Albany regarding wine sales in supermarkets.  Feelings for and against the proposed legislation run deep.  As an importer of a more hands-on portfolio, I am swayed to believe that wine in supermarkets isn't the evil that the opposition claims it to be.

Athenee Importers has distribution in over 36 states - many of which already allow wine to be sold in supermarkets and wine shops to sell non-alcoholic beverages and food products.  Wine shops coexist with supermarkets and from what I have seen, better quality wines end up becoming the focus of these shops and the "bulk" or "cheap" wines find their homes on supermarket shelves where most of them belong anyway. It can  also make wine shops more specialized - a destination to buy your wine, throw in some cheese and possibly even some olive oil that you would not find in your mainstream market.  These foodstuffs have the ability to be marked up 20-30% and increase the store's margins.

For importers like myself with a niche portfolio, this is a welcome opportunity.  As I see it, retail shops will potentially have to shift away from buying mass market brands in quantity and will need to focus on working with better quality wines from established and lesser known wineries/wine regions where the customer doesn't have as much experience with.  They will be able to offer them something unique and provide a better customer experience. 

If the law allows for wine shops to sell foodstuffs, this opens up another avenue for us to sell our olive oil & vinegars.  For companies like mine, this is a great opportunity to increase distribution outlets past supermarkets and small grocery stores whose focus is on price point and tend to stay away from higher priced, specialty items.

Another proposal that may be introduced is to allow owners to have more than one shop ("chains").  While it IS illegal here now, some crafty owners have found ways around this law and even though on paper the shops are not the same name, they really are affiliated.  Other states have allowed "chain" stores to exist.  Even though in some states chain stores dominate the landscape, the way that NY has pricing laws enacted, stores still could not buy in extremely large drops and then share the goods amongst the other stores.  They would need to buy only for one store at a time (unless NY changes the laws).

Overall, I do agree that in this cash-strapped state increased revenue from the taxes alone would help the state's purse and can only help towards getting us out of the financial troubles that we've been experiencing since the crash in 2008. It will also give the customer the opportunity to have an experience of shopping for alcohol and other foodstuffs in one location.  This is something that consumers in other parts of the country have been enjoying for years.

Since the state assembly has only 4 weeks left in session, we will see if they take up the discussion and whether or not the debate will continue or be set aside yet again.  Stay tuned.....