Thursday, February 3, 2011

That Job-Creating Wine In Grocery Stores Bill

What the heck, proponents of Tennessee’s wine-in-grocery-stores effort might as well take a cue from House Republicans in Washington and call whatever bill they get the “Creating Jobs For Tennesseans By Selling Wine In Grocery Stores Act.” Because that is what the folks behind this effort at Red White And Food say it will do:
Opening the wine market would create 1,597 to 3,513 new jobs, according to a new economic impact study released today. The same study found that 104 to 597 liquor store jobs would be at risk.

You can read the economic impact study here. Let me add in the interest of full disclosure: the study was conducted by Stonebridge Research of St. Helena, California, which of course is in Napa Valley: the heart of wine country. I find it funny that Stonebridge Research is located on Zinfandel Lane, and of course no one should be shocked to learn they service the wine industry.

It actually might be interesting to see what a more impartial research group has to say on the matter. But regardless, I tend to think economic impact studies are like surveys: they say whatever the person paying for them wants them to say.

That said, it’s logical selling wine in grocery stores would create a few jobs -- Kroger and the like would need to hire more stock people, wholesalers might need to hire more folks to handle the grocery market, etc. And I’m also dubious over claims that selling wine in grocery stores will hurt jobs in liquor stores.

In states like California and Florida which sell wine in grocery stores, they still have liquor stores on every street corner, too. What ends up happening is that most grocery stores sell primarily low price point wines. Wine stores specialize in imported varieties, hard to find wines, higher-priced vintages and the like. And, of course, liquor. There’s enough to go around for everyone.

What really interested me in this economic impact study were their findings about wine sales and gender:

Qualitative and survey research as well as survey research has repeatedly found that:

• Women and older Americans are more likely to consume wine, by a significant margin, while men and younger consumers favor beer and spirits;

• Women tend to associate wine with food;

• More than 50% of the wine sold in the U.S. is purchased by women as part of regular grocery shopping and meal planning;

• Women generally find it uncomfortable to shop in conventional liquor stores, particularly traditional stores focused on beer and spirits.

Yeah that seems about right. As a woman whose day is filled with running errands around town, meal planning, etc., let me say: it sure would be nice if the men in the state legislature could make my life a little easier! For real, y’all! Why do I have to make two stops to cook my dang dinner? Picking up a bottle of wine at the grocery store would be one less stop I have to make (Hey, I wonder if wine in grocery stores would alleviate traffic problems?)

Then again, we’re picky wine drinkers at the Beale house. I’d probably still have to shop at the wine store because no way will Kroger carry our favorite Valpolicella. But that’s just us.

Anyway, near as I can tell it will be a wash on the jobs front. I don’t see liquor stores going out of business and I don’t see a massive influx of wine industries into Tennessee, either. What I do see is the end to a cumbersome, clumsy, antiquated, anti-consumer law that only a small number of people who benefit from the status quo want to keep.

I thought we were all about the free hand of the market, unfettered and gloriously free FREE flying around and sprinkling everything with capitalistic fairy dust? How are our existing wine laws anything close to that?

How does preventing liquor stores from selling corkscrews and artisan cheeses and chocolates accomplish that? How does making busy moms with 20 minutes to do the grocery shopping before picking up the kids from soccer practice accomplish that? Why put up roadblocks to consumers?

Shouldn’t we make it easier for people to buy stuff they want to buy -- especially something taxed as much as wine is?