The sale of wine in supermarkets was a long, hard-fought victory. One that received the overwhelming support of more than 70 percent of Tennesseans.
For years, Tennessee consumers expressed their desire to have the same opportunity afforded their many neighboring states, to purchase wine from their local supermarket, as opposed to being forced to frequent retail package stores. For more than eight years, retailers across the state worked diligently to make their wishes a reality.
The real pivotal point in the campaign’s success came as consumers themselves became more involved and voiced their frustration to local legislators. As a result, the referendum passed in ALL 78 localities, as voters overwhelmingly declared their approval of the measure, resulting in a long-awaited and much anticipated victory.
However, many of our loyal Food City customers have expressed extreme disappointment that it was somewhat of a hollow victory. As numerous shoppers learned shortly after the July 1st implementation date that, although they could now purchase wine along with their groceries, some very limiting and inconvenient restrictions have been placed upon the new legislation.
Supermarkets are currently only permitted to sell wine during the same times that package stores are permitted to operate. This eliminates two very choice days for consumers – holidays and one of the most popular grocery shopping days of the week, Sundays. The restriction came as a surprise to most consumers, who naturally assumed that wine sales would correspond with approved beer sale dates and times.
For the 2017 calendar year, this provision would restrict the sale of wine on a number of impactful occasions for our consumers, including 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
New legislation has been proposed that would keep the decision local by aligning the times that wine is available for sale with that of beer sales, which are decided by local municipalities. Senate Bill 947/House Bill 719 would also allow liquor stores to operate during these same hours, granting equal sales opportunities to both supermarkets and package stores alike.
The sale of wine in supermarkets has increased tax revenues for the state of Tennessee, boosted local economies, helped create a surplus of funds for our state and provided much needed revenue to many of our localities.
One of the things I learned early on in my supermarket career was that the first rule of thumb is that the customer is always right. Tennessee consumers are asking that our local legislators recognize that fact by granting them the benefit of choosing the most convenient shopping days for their busy lifestyles. Over 300,000 Tennesseans voiced their desire at the polls, demanding to purchase wine in supermarkets – unrestricted. We encourage you to express your opinion to your state legislators regarding this important pending legislation. Please visit capitol.tn.gov to contact your local officials.
Steven C. Smith is president and chief executive offer for K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc., Food City’s parent company.