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Suppliers, Distributors And Retailers Tussle Over Sunday Sales Issue In Texas

May 3, 2012

The debate over Sunday spirits sales has reached a boiling point in Texas, as key suppliers and distributors clash with the Texas Package Stores Association (TPSA) retailer group.

According to TPSA executive director Lance Lively, the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) and the two major Texas wholesalers—Glazer’s Distributors and Republic National Distributing Co.—will no longer support the TPSA because of its stance against Sunday sales, and they plan to boycott the TPSA’s annual convention in August.

The Sunday sales battle has been fought numerous times in Texas, and the TPSA has remained steadfast in its opposition. That position clashes with a national effort by the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) to strike down remaining state laws banning Sunday sales.

DISCUS represents nearly 70% of all distilled spirits sold in the United States. With that kind of presence, it’s virtually impossible for retailers to retaliate by de-listing DISCUS member brands and companies. Yet some retailers are taking subtle action.

“I’m definitely deemphasizing those brands in favor of local brands that don’t have DISCUS ties,” said one West Texas retailer. Another retailer is taking a similar tack. “Let’s put it this way: I don’t have DISCUS brands on my floor,” he said. “They’re on the shelves. I’m not going to cut my nose off to spite my face, but their presence has been reduced.”

Lively said he was surprised that suppliers and wholesalers would break ties with the TPSA over Sunday sales. “We don’t fault anybody for doing things they feel they should,” Lively said. “But I find it odd that they’re taking this position over one issue when so many others are as important or more so.” Lively cited taxation as a prime example, noting that “we’re all on the same page of that songbook.”

The controversy has thrown a wrench into the planning for the TPSA’s August convention, which typically gets support from suppliers and wholesalers. One retailer and TPSA board member called the move by DISCUS and the wholesalers “devastating,” adding that it was an unexpected blow. “Thus far, only non-DISCUS members are participating in our convention,” he added.

“We hope our convention is not impacted at all,” said Lively. “We’re selling (space) on the convention floor. We’re filling up, and we anticipate a sell-out show. There are just as many smaller companies who are interested in having their product in our stores, and they’re willing to support the association.”

Greg Wonsmos, president of Texas’s Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits and president of TPSA, told Shanken News Daily the group is rebounding. “TPSA is going forward and we expect to have as good a convention as we’ve ever had,” he said. “We have some great speakers lined up. It’s their (the DISCUS members’) decision if they don’t want to participate.”

The Texas Legislature will reconvene early next year, marking the next opportunity for the Sunday sales issue to be debated. Lively says that despite the pressure from suppliers and wholesalers, TPSA will remain steadfast. “We’re going to go into the next session with that opposition,” Lively says. “Nothing has changed.”


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