Distributors Against Small Liquor Header

Are Distributors Against Small Liquor?

In Banter by Kyle George3 Comments

Just recently a nationwide class action lawsuit was filed against Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, a distributor. Now you may be thinking, “so what?  What does this have to do with me?” Well in a roundabout way it has to do with anyone who likes to frequent small, privately owned liquor stores across the United States. While there are many parts to the lawsuit; two stand out to me the most. Here are the summarized items in the suit that I am referring to:refusing to sell products to class members without them purchasing “tie-ins” (other types of liquor than those the customer wishes to purchase), and “threatening to cut off supplies to customers who do not buy a sufficient quantity of liquor, or liquor of select varieties.”

Some people might not have any problem with making companies buy certain items to have access to other items. But let’s take a step back from this and analyze what is happening to the mom & pop shops we all love, the owners we make friends with in the hopes of acquiring a great bottle. Liquor distributors are telling small shops they need to buy X number of cases of a wine or spirit to get in an allocated product. A small shop might not be able to purchase or sell X many cases; so its customers lose out on the access to the allocated product. Across the street, the bigger chain store (who has not carried the allocated product in the past) is told the same thing and says, “sure we will purchase X number of cases plus some” and are given a deal on the wine or spirit.  The chain store, in turn, sells off the bulk liquor at crazy low prices to get it out of the store, and now has allocated product for their customers.

The problem with this is that the distributors are killing the small guy and dictating to you, the consumer, where you will have to go to purchase your liquor. Most of the time these larger stores, while giving deals on some bottles, will end up charging more for the allocated ones, causing a lose lose situation for you the consumer.   You are forced to buy liquor at the bigger chain store, at a higher price than you would have gotten from the private owner you have established a relationship with.

Don’t get me wrong; I love going into a big warehouse store and finding amazing deals on some great bourbon because of their massive buying power. But where does this stop when it comes to the small shop? Do we want to see the privately owned shops go away and only to have chain liquor stores left? I for one don’t. I love the comradery and personalized experience when I go into small, local stores. After all, as Matt Self said in his article, Bourbon Hunters Guide, “it is all about building relationships.” Relationships are not built at big box stores or chains; they are built in the small shops we currently all know and love.

While most likely nothing will change, I still sit here and wonder, “if equal allocations were shipped out everywhere would we have this problem?”  Years ago relationships and respect paved the way for business. Today, it is just sales numbers and the power of the almighty dollar.  You will never hear me say capitalism is bad, but at the end of the day I will always say, “respecting the one who has treated you well the longest is the most important.”  The shop who has been selling your products for over 20 years, even when they were not the top sellers, is the one who should be taken care of; not the store that is selling what is hot today to dump you tomorrow for the next big thing.  I hope that the small private stores will still be able to procure the allocated and specialty bottles; and that they will not be forced out by their larger chain competitors with more buying power with the distributors.

About the Author
Kyle George

Kyle George


Kyle was born in St. Louis and has lived in the Midwest his entire life. His father introduced him to bourbon when he was 21 years old, and has been enjoying it ever since. Kyle has completed the Kentucky Bourbon Trail on three different occasions, and cannot wait for the opportunity to return. He shares his love of bourbon with his wife, Emily, who traveled the bourbon trail with him for their first wedding anniversary in 2011. He enjoys comparing bourbons from different distilleries and different areas of the country and enjoys sharing a glass with friends and family. Currently, he spends the majority of his time caring for his two young sons but manages to share his love of bourbon with them as well. His four year old frequently says, "When I'm older, I'm going to drink wine and bourbon."


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    The article is exactly what is going on in Houston starting next month in April. Southern Glazer’s Reps have notify small liquors stores. We have ro buy allotment of liquors to get the same price we are getting now. Example buy 20 cases of Crown Royal, 20 of Hennessy, 20 of Smirnoff etc. I’m a small store. I do not have space to buy 20 cases or enough funds to buy it. Where could I even store it. This will put myself and others out of business. They already sale the big box stores liquor at a really cheap price. Small liquor stores have to pay 10 times more for the same product. We need liquor. It goes to big box stores first. If any cases are left. We will be able to purchase. There system is unethical and not fair to all retailers

    1. Kyle George

      Completely agree with you Tamara. It is one of the main reasons why I support small liquor stores first, as long as their pricing is fair. And I say this based on so many starting to price their products at secondary pricing. But it is important for stores to charge a fair amount and for us as the buyer to shop at locally owned small shops. Plus the benefit of the smaller shop is better customer service. No matter how many times you go into a big box store, they rarely ever remember who you are.

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    You are right. SG sucks the life out of small stores. Their a add leaman only cater to large stores that can afford large purchases. They ac lw as us tell you out of stock. They don’t log it in because it would show up o. Invoice . Too bad Coo of glaziers doesn’t jump in an tell supervisors to visit stores and check on how their s as less as n are doing. SG sucks.

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