Wine Talk

Snooth User: Philip James

NY grocery stores to sell wine?

Posted by Philip James, Dec 19, 2008.

This is potentially huge - it would take New York state from 2,500 wine outlets to over 20,000:
http://www.decanter.com/news/274209.html

I like that a British mag broke the news!

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Replies

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Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Dec 19, 2008.

Hold your British pride for a sec!

Actually it has been rumbling around the papers (and NY1!) since Monday. Its just that you don't read the Albany, NY media:
http://www.fox23news.com/news/local...

I am amazed that the liquor store lobby (which, by right, I guess I must consider myself a part of) would get caught with their pants down over this. It could be that the wholesalers are now so consolidated, that they no longer see this as a threat. When this passes, a lot of the crappy neighborhood wine and liquor shops are going to lose all their wine customers to Duane Reade, Gristedes and Key Food.

This means you had better hurry and get those dusty lost bottles of Chateau Lynch-Bages 1988 and cocktail bitters that are no longer manufactured, while you still can!

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Reply by Adam Levin, Dec 19, 2008.

This is pretty great for NY consumers. In California, you can buy wine at grocery stores, so they and other chains (partially excluding Whole Foods here) set the low bar. Independent liquor and wine shops are then forced to differentiate themselves by stocking more interesting and harder to find wines (non "Safeway-brands") and having better customer service. Safeway has really stepped it up in the last couple of years in their wine offerings further increasing competition and making things better for consumers. The corner liquor store still exists at least in SF, but their primary focus is on booze and beer instead of critter labels and random bottles of Chateau Lynch-Bages 1988.

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Reply by ChipDWood, Dec 19, 2008.

I grew up with this "kind" of legislation anyway in Cleveland. The smaller stores still survived, and thrived actually, due to two key reasons:

1) Educated wine drinkers value a retailer who takes care of their potential purchases- and understands the conditions those bottles need to be kept under. The more people are exposed to wine, the more those people will find themselves seeking out bottles kept in good shape. The bigger shops don't seem to get that, to an extent. THAT, more than anything should be interesting to watch: Will the bigger stores start treating this as they should by keeping the merchandise in the best locations, training their employees how to handle it, etc.

2) EXPOSURE. The customer base for wine will increase due to that exposure, and create a greater need for the better bottles, often handled more properly, by the stores that specialize in the product.

Another thought concerning this in another thread, re: "Organized". Should be interesting no matter what.

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Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Dec 19, 2008.

@Chip. I agree 100%. However, in NYC right now, in many of the residential neighborhoods, you can't walk more than 2 minutes without coming across a tiny wine and liquor store. Some of them are fantastic, but many of them haven't caught up with the times (and have staff that knows little to nothing about wine) and still devote an insane amount of shelf space to jugs, boxes and cheap gimmicky wines and little else. They only survive because of their proximity to customers. This end of the scale is going to change a lot.

For the serious wine drinkers, no supermarket is going to displace their

However, the exposure factor will be huge with an 8 to 10 times multiplication in the number of wine outlets. The state is also hoping for a triple whammy of revenue for their coffers, by more than doubling their excise tax on wine from 18 to 51 cents a bottle ($), collecting more licensing fees ($$), and the overall increase in consumption ($$$).

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Reply by ChipDWood, Dec 19, 2008.

...It's like "REVERSE PROHIBITION". (Caps for SHOUTING EMPHASIS only).

RBoulanger replied: "This end of the scale is going to change a lot."

~ And to that I agree too, and think that aspect of this new approach may be a bit overdue. For years they've been able to profit- and I think even unfairly- due to limited-if-not-eliminated competition enforced by state law.

Now they'll have to get off their butts, come up with new ways (like; improving conditions for the bottles or finding better wines for their purposes as we spoke) to compete... or give up the market.

Those smaller shops may benefit from this change too, from the other direction, if they can find a way to capitalize on the opportunity.

Let's see if they have the ability to adapt & survive, now that there's a much more "fair" set of rules concerning competition for that (still growing, mind you) wine buck.

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Reply by oceank8, Dec 19, 2008.

In Southern California you don't find many liquor stores. We have Bevmo which is a huge retailer but other wise most non wine alcohol is bought at the grocery stores. As for wine stores, they usually come with a small bar so you can taste various wines, we have massive amounts of these around! The fact that you can taste or have a glass of wine is what separates them from the grocery stores. That and the fact they carry different wine (they have to because they can't compete with pricing).

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Reply by Philip James, Dec 20, 2008.

Rodolphe, the Decanter article does give the merest nod to the actual wine stores by saying:

"New York's 2,500 wine and liquor stores, always against such proposals, are likely to fight back."

But yeah, you'd have thought the lobbyists would have been whispering sweet nothings into Patersons ear leading up to this

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Reply by Philip James, Mar 17, 2009.

"Three More Daily Newspapers Call for Authorizing Wine Sales in Grocery Stores"
http://www.istockanalyst.com/articl...

Major editorial pages that have supported allowing wine sales in grocery stores include: the Buffalo News; the Syracuse Post-Standard; Newsday; the New York Post; the Schenectady Gazette; the Watertown Daily Times; the Rochester Business Journal; and Crain's New York Business. Columnists who have supported the proposal include: Bill Hammond of the Daily News; Fred LeBrun of the Albany Times Union; and Mitch Frank of Wine Spectator.

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Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Mar 17, 2009.

And the retailers keep fighting back. As one of state's 2,500 retail license holders, I am getting barraged by mail and e-mail from my colleagues.

http://www.lastmainstreetstore.com/
http://growourstores.com/ - they have an interesting point. Allow food and snacks to be sold at liquor stores.

Overall I think the proposal will be good for NYers... including most wine store owners. However, I dispute this assertion made by that analyst.

"New York is the only major wine producing state that does not allow for the sale of wine in grocery stores. That helps explain New York's diminished leadership in the wine industry in recent years. California and Washington, the number one and two respective wine producing states, have six times as many retail outlets per person than New York."

I don't think the lack of wine in grocery stores has anything to do with NY's position in the wine industry (although NY does have Constellation, the largest wine company in the world). When wines become available in grocery stores, I don't think it will benefit the NY wine industry any more than it benefits the California or Washington one.

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Reply by MTB, Mar 17, 2009.

I recently moved to Connecticut - which does not allow wine sales in grocery stores - from Chicago - which does sell wine in grocery stores.

I must say that in Connecticut there are far more small package (liquor) stores than in Chicago, but I think the selection available is poorer here in CT. In Chicago, most of the larger chain grocery stores had a decent selection of the standard $8-$20 wines; in my neighborhood grocery store, which was one of the smaller Jewels in the city, I could find a decent selection of Italian, Australian, French and California wines. When I wanted something better - or wanted to explore or discover new wines, I'd head over to the large wine stores such as Sam's Wines or Binny's. I haven't yet found anything to compare in terms of the scope and selection in Connecticut - and I've been looking.

Other than it being incredibly convenient to grab a bottle of a decent table wine when I'm picking up stuff for dinner, I'm not really passionate one way or the other on the subject - except... if selling wine through grocery stores encourages independent stores to be more adventurous and start carrying wines that are "off the beaten track" as it were, then I'm all for it!

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Reply by fibo86, Mar 21, 2009.

They are good for mass product but that will be it and also what about thieves and kids that want to drink? Do you have one person with no passion watching the wine or someone that doesn't even like wine telling you that this product is fantastic? I'm finding these attitudes already in independent bottle shops (in Australia) I shudder to think that this will be regular in the super market. They want to do this over here as well the main concern I have is the kids as it is they already want to come and steal bottles off the shelf what about when these products are on shelves in the super market not being watched by anyone?

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Reply by h2w4, Mar 22, 2009.

I know that here in CA where wine is sold in both grocery stores as well as convenience stores things were pretty lax for awhile and kids were able to get alcohol (usually beer or liquor) pretty readily. That was until the CA Alcohol Beverage Control took a very concerted effort to stop it. Many small "Mom and Pop" stores got some very major fines and since then the grocery stores, liquor stores, wine shops and convenience stores have all be come very stringent in their ID verification methods. I'm 32 and still get regularly IDed

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Reply by fibo86, Mar 22, 2009.

Yeah, the fines are here too but as it is we have to try and figure out if they are of age, if they have friends waiting around the corner, if it's a false ID, ect and that's in the bottle shop I work in (mind you they aren't terribly clever they all stand 50m from the front of the store and send the oldest one in while you can see them). It can cost me personally up to $15,000 and the company depending on the severity of the offence $30,000- $100,000 loss of licence ect. But it's bad in the sense that it's now the person behind the counters and bars fault because some idiot tries to get alcohol or drinks too much and really it's amazing what people will try, I've had a 16yo come in and offer up a permission note because mum had a cold then mum rings the store and abuses you for doing your job, even to the point I've had to refuse a parent who said to her daughter oh just get what you want (as we have pre-mixed drinks here, vodka/ raspberry, Bourbon & coke ect) I've asked the daughter for ID, mum said she's not buying I am, so again I've had to explain the law and refuse her as I knew it wasn't for the mum. This law has gone crazy and it's really hard to enforce when people try and suck you in. Another kid who managed to slip through the door went into the cool room and took two beers from a six pack in the back of the cool room, I literally changed shirts and followed him to the back of the shopping center saw him pull the alcohol out of his bag, I asked for my products back he played dumb, then he tried to tell me he was meeting his father so I said ok lets tell him how much of a thief and alco you are...... I got my products back, but these are the things that I deal with on a day to day basis who's going to be watching in the supermarket?

Ps didn't really get IDed until I turned 28 now I love it. he he he

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Reply by Philip James, Mar 25, 2009.

The NY Times finally weighs in on this matter, with Eric Asimov's excellent posts today:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/25/d...

http://thepour.blogs.nytimes.com/20...

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Reply by hhotdog, Mar 28, 2009.

i have noticed here in the Fairfield county area of Ct. that many of the "big" grocery store chains tend to put a wine and liquor stores adjoining the "mother" store. not too bad a selection and have close if not the same service as my usual wine guy's store. mostly keep the major names with little smaller makers. since i tend to visit my usual store regulaly to buy and talk about what's new in wine there, i don't think it will have too much of an effect on the small guy. i still don't get quite the attention and details (and the stories behind the wines!!)at the "big" grocery store wine and liquor stores.

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Reply by fibo86, Mar 29, 2009.

You know you can say it won't affect the small guy now but wait until it becomes a two horse race as it has here (in Australia), all it will take is a few price wars (and believe me they all started as the small cage attached to the market with someone behind the counter who doesn't drink wine) your average Joe has a tendency to go to these stores for convenience at first then it becomes complacency then they are locked in the market, after that the stores become "independent" and Joe forgets that it ever belonged to the market. Then the price slashing, then some alcohol in the market and supposedly independent alcohol store, with as you say hhotdog attention, attention to detail, stories behind the wines and plain old fashioned service long go out the window.
One of Australias top independent liquor companies has gone into administration will have to check the numbers but fairly significant as it will put the main two horses racing toward the finish line unopposed

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Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Mar 30, 2009.

Well, that's all she wrote...

The wine in supermarkets proposal was dropped from the NY state budget at the last minute:
http://blogs.timesunion.com/tableho...

I don't expect it to come back anytime soon either.

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Reply by Philip James, Mar 30, 2009.

Eric Asimov adds some more color:

http://thepour.blogs.nytimes.com/20...

Apparently, they approved grants for "a museum of brickmaking, a soccer hall of fame and the Urban Yoga Foundation", while killing the wine portion.

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Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Mar 30, 2009.

Although, to be fair, those ludicrous sounding discretionary spending measures have nothing to do with the changes in wine law.

The established NY state wine lobby was pretty well mobilized.

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Reply by Philip James, Mar 30, 2009.

Come on, who doesnt want to go visit the museum of brickmaking! At least if I could buy wine from my local grocery store I'd be able to make it through the museum tour.

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