Posted on | July 23, 2013
Written by | Cara McIlwaine
The 11th annual ABL Conference took place June 9th-11th, for the first time in Washington, D.C. In part inspired by the conference locale, emphasis was stressed on policy issues and information. The event featured 25 speakers—more than any previous conference.
The keynote speech was delivered by Congressman Tom Petri (R-WI), who is Chairman of the Subcommittee for Highways and Transit of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. His remarks touched on a variety of issues like the state of politics in Washington today, highway safety policy, new technology for automobile safety and other issues that come before his subcommittee.
Other highlights included a panel featuring craft producers’ insights into retailer relationships and the future of craft. Bill Butcher, Port City Brewing founder; Rob Deford, Boordy Vineyards President; and Wes Henderson, COO of Angel’s Envy Bourbon, spoke frankly about obstacles they’ve faced to reach where they are today and future growth opportunities.
The Alcohol Industry Leaders panel featured the heads of leading trade associations: Dr. Peter Cressy, President & CEO of DISCUS; Craig Purser, President & CEO of NBWA; Joe McClain, President of the Beer Institute; and Craig Wolf, President & CEO of WSWA. The panel discussed federal and industry-level issues facing their members and ways they could cooperate on shared concerns.
There were also individual educational seminars for ABL members which touched on a variety of issues. Particularly relevant since the National Transportation Safety Board’s recent recommendation to lower the legal BAC limit to 0.05%, former law enforcement officer Bill Georges discussed the fight against drunk driving. Retired detective Martin Johnson presented a seminar on fake i.d. prevention. Neil Trautwein, VP and Employee Benefits Policy Council at the National Retail Federation, addressed the expected impact of the Affordable Care Act on small business owners.
Beverage Media held a presentation called “Digital Success: It’s in Your Own Backyard.” The session focused on how the best opportunity for retailers selling wine online is within their own market—where consumers are already familiar with their store name and brand. The talk went on to highlight how these “in-market” consumers show a greater inclination to become repeat customers than “out-of-market” consumers. The latter half of the presentation then described how an eCommerce website, acting as an extension of the brick and-mortar store, can assist in developing customer loyalty with local consumers—particularly by focusing on providing customers the information they’re looking for as conveniently and accurately as possible.
Taking advantage of the location also meant that ABL members visited Capitol Hill for over 40 meetings with members of Congress and their staff, followed by a reception. John Bodnovich, ABL’s Executive Director, said “With the conference coming to Washington for the first time, the emphasis was ABL’s mandate to speak for retailers on alcohol and small business issues. Focusing on the positive aspects of the industry, we brought the message of America’s beer, wine and spirits retailers to the nation’s capital.”
Along with networking opportunities like the breakfasts sponsored by Beverage Media and Proximo Spirits, the National Association of Beverage Importers held a reception and attendees enjoyed the annual MillerCoors luncheon.
During the general session, the Brown-Forman Retailers of the Year for 2013 were recognized for their hard work. The ABL Top Shelf Award Banquet, sponsored by DISCUS, capped things off. This year’s Top Shelf Award was presented to Craig Wolf, President & CEO of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association, both for his impressive and tireless work for the industry, but also his military service as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves.
ABL’s Board of Directors also elected Harry Klock, owner of Stockman Bar in Harlowton, Montana, as ABL’s new president, representing ABL’s membership for a two-year term. He was previously an ABL Vice President. Other offices were also elected. The 2013-2014 ABL Executive Committee is comprised of the following: Vice President Don Diserens, Alton Sports Tap, Godfrey, IL; Vice President, Steve Morris, Jorgenson’s Restaurant & Lounge, Helena, MT; Vice President Paul Santelle, Garden State Discount Liquor in Perth Amboy, NJ; Vice President Warren Scheidt, The Cork, Columbus, IN; Treasurer Ray Cox, Elite Beverages, Indianapolis, IN; and Representative-at-Large Bob Sprenger, Bubba’s, Marion, WI. Outgoing President Chuck Ferrar of Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits in Annapolis, MD remains on the Executive Committee as Immediate Past-President.