Posted on | January 4, 2013
Written by | Paul Santelle
Raising the Status of Our Sector
I have been an off-premise retailer for 25 years and can tell you firsthand that one of the most frustrating feelings in our industry is dealing with the simple fact that many consider us to be second-class businessmen. In spite of the fact that we are state-based small business owners, employers, taxpayers and voters, there is clearly a public as well as political perception problem as retailers of alcohol beverages.
Alcoholism, underage drinking and DWI fatalities all contribute to the litany that is constantly recited. They take the majority of credit for the lowering of our class status, which is why we as an industry must remain united in our efforts to counter those factors through education and, of course, responsible sales practices. I strongly believe that as our society continues to evolve, we have a responsibility as members of the alcohol industry to also evolve.
I challenge all of my fellow retailers in 2013 to personally strive to raise our class status by becoming more active with your elected public officials—your mayors, council members and most importantly your representatives in the NJ Senate and Assembly. Knowing full well that most of us work six to seven days a week, my advice is to incorporate these efforts into your daily/weekly routine. It takes less than an hour to go to a meeting, and only a few minutes to make a call or send an email, but the long-term benefits to your business and industry are immeasurable!
Forecast Calls for Offense
In spite of our second-class status and the fact that most of 2012 was dedicated to playing defense, the time for getting on offense has finally come. The NJLSA will be proposing legislation that will clearly define what a level playing field is, as well as what it is not, with respect to big box stores and grocery chains. We have been working closely with the ABL (American Beverage License Association) on this effort, which involves a large coalition of other ABL member states that have been fighting the grocery chain challenge for the last decade.
There has never been a more vital time for you as an independent retailer or industry associate to get connected to the NJLSA than right now! Especially since the November 2013 election will not only be for the Governor’s office, but also for every seat in the NJ Legislature. Our full legislature will be looking for support, and offering support in return. That is why election years present prime opportunities to meet and lobby every legislator, including our Governor, so let’s do it together!
If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines thinking your involvement will not make a difference, make a New Year’s resolution to get connected in 2013!
Industry Solidarity Key
When reflecting on the roller coaster ride that was 2012, one of our most important advances came from the low point that followed in the wake of the passage of direct shipping legislation. We realized at that time that significant out-of-state pressures had been exerted against us, and that moving forward we would have to adapt our strategies to counter the global and national forces that are challenging our local state-based independent business model. The silver lining from the direct shipping fallout can be seen in our industry solidarity as well as our commitment to the three-tier system our businesses were built upon after the Repeal of Prohibition.
Ironically, almost all of the events and circumstances that led to Prohibition are exactly what we are fighting now as global and national free trade crusaders are trying to vertically integrate our three-tier business model with their own self-serving, market-destabilizing agenda. This agenda trades long-term Main Street equity and accountability for short-term Wall Street profits that compromise public welfare and safety.
In other words, our class standing is being compromised by the same national and global forces that just ate our lunch with the passage of direct shipping. And now they asking what’s for dinner.