By Sean Hughes, Connecticut Package Stores Association
Business owners across Connecticut have consistently proven their ability to innovate and flourish even in tough times. They have created new products to adapt to the consumer’s changing demands, which has always been a cornerstone of success in any marketplace. The local liquor industry is the perfect example of these qualities, as it has embodied them for hundreds of years.
Today, Connecticut is home to many successful wineries, distilleries and breweries, which have thrived and expanded in every corner of the state. Several of these small businesses have grown from small operations to national and worldwide, widely recognized brand names enjoyed by consumers from all walks of life.
In Connecticut, we are lucky to have a strong, three-tiered system which allows small businesses to grow and still provide high-quality products and service to their customers, which some other businesses in other states are not able to enjoy.
Recently, the concept of selling wine in Connecticut food stores was proposed, citing the idea as a gain for the liquor industry in the state. For years, this proposal has been brought forth by many advocates for food stores, which currently have the ability to sell beer. The advocates for this change have claimed that it will help sell more products for the entire liquor industry and will not have any negative impact on the current liquor system. Those who are familiar with the structure of the industry know this to be inaccurate.
The 30 states which currently allow wine to be sold in food stores have experienced a lack in the quality brands and overall selection enjoyed by consumers in Connecticut. Such a change in this state would drastically alter all three tiers of the liquor industry – retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers.
It is clear that as with any food store, certain brands are prioritized to ensure adequate turnover of products.
This means that some manufacturers and wholesalers will fall by the wayside if their product is too unique or specialized to meet the needs of food stores. Under the current three-tier system, liquor retailers are able to work with wholesalers and manufacturers from all over the country and locally, especially with small manufacturers who want to get their name out into the marketplace.
Many local liquor stores have dedicated spaces in their store to promote Connecticut-made products and smaller, craft brands. These Connecticut sections are often placed right next to national brands, and are able to compete at the same level. Store owners and employees are knowledgeable on their locally made products and give them the attention they deserve.
Recently, Carroll Hughes, Executive Director of the Connecticut Package Stores Association (CPSA), was interviewed on the subject of Connecticut wines in food stores by the Hartford Courant. The comments made by Hughes in the article explained how much store owners invest in their local partners. “There’s 500 wines in a section of a store. Most package stores devote sections that are labeled ‘Connecticut products.’ And [Connecticut wines] are in competition with wines from all over the world.” When he was asked about how much attention a store gives to Connecticut wines, he said, “Sometimes a product is not necessarily bought, it’s sold.”
In that same Courant article, representatives of Connecticut wineries mentioned that they see package stores as partners in business. CPSA has always appreciated its partnership with Connecticut manufacturers, and continues to share its support with the entire local liquor industry and its many stories of innovation and success.
The Connecticut liquor industry is one of the most diverse and competitive markets in the nation. The opportunities to small businesses are what allow Connecticut consumers to enjoy a diverse selection. It is important that we must protect the laws and structure in place to ensure that Connecticut remains a place where opportunity and ingenuity thrive.