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Independent Retailer Applejack Wine & Spirits Braces For Change As Chains Eye Colorado

April 1, 2016

Colorado’s retail landscape could be changing in the near future.

Last month, two ballot proposals emerged that would allow spirits, wine and full-strength beer sales in groceries—and would also allow retailers a maximum of 10 off-premise licenses, up from the current level of one license. Supermarkets are pushing a separate ballot initiative that would allow full-strength beer and wine grocery sales, but not spirits. State legislators are currently seeking a compromise among the warring parties. Those fighting the changes include Applejack Wine & Spirits, the 50,000-square-foot independent retail giant located in the Denver suburb of Wheat Ridge, Colorado.

Applejack president and CEO Jim Shpall tells SND that he’ll look to expand beyond a single location if Colorado raises the license limit. “We would adapt to the exigencies of the marketplace,” he says.

Applejack, which offers over 15,000 SKUs, has been seeing strong sales growth, led by craft beer and artisanal spirits. Wine accounts for 50% of Applejack’s total sales, with beer and spirits each accounting for 25% of the total. Within wine, Shpall has seen a trend toward higher price points as the economy has recovered, with the $7-$8 tier less prominent than in the past and the $13-$20 segment on the rise. “Wine remains strong, but craft beer is where we see the greatest change in trends,” he notes.

On the spirits side, Applejack is tapping into the thirst for new, innovative whiskies. “It’s not so much a breakdown of brand loyalty,” Shpall adds. “It’s more of an increase in diversification among spirits types, which is giving people greater opportunity to explore.”

Meanwhile, Applejack has been active in the drinks delivery market. It has partnerships with both Drizly and Minibar, but also continues to develop its own delivery system. Shpall says the rise of delivery hasn’t diminished foot traffic in Applejack’s store, whose expansive offerings still make it a destination for shoppers.

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