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Interview, Part 2: ABC Fine Wine & Spirits’ Dave Larue

June 15, 2021

In the second part of our interview, Dave Larue, vice president of sales at 123-store Florida retail chain ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, discusses recent growth in the wine category, regulatory changes in the Sunshine State, and the company’s expansion plans.

SND: How are wine sales performing at ABC, and what’s driving the trend?

Larue: Wine performed very well for us last year and even gained share. We found that some customers weren’t comfortable shopping in groceries and big box stores. Since they were coming to ABC for their spirits needs, they added wine to the trip. Champagnes—Veuve Clicquot, Dom Perignon, and Moët—are skyrocketing, and rosé is still performing well. Among domestic wines, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay lead the way for us.

SND: What are your overall trends for beer?

Larue: We’re outpacing the market, with FMBs increasing at a double-digit rate, but beer will likely level off as stores open up more. Beer is a commodity in Florida and is available everywhere. We believe growth will be with seltzers.

SND: How has the pandemic altered your in-store merchandising tactics?

Larue: We’ve resumed limited in-store tastings and we’re anxious to get our center-store tasting bars and event centers up and running again as they’re central to the customer experience. We’ve learned a lot about how our guests are shopping from our e-commerce business. As a result, we’re looking into setting store shelves by taste profile and not by brand as we’ve traditionally done.

SND: Cocktails to go from bars and restaurants are now permanently legal in Florida. What position did ABC take on this matter, and what impact do you believe the law will have on your spirits sales?

Larue: We’re glad to see that the on-premise is coming back, and we value our partnerships with bars and restaurants. We’re comfortable with restaurants selling cocktails to go and even bottles of wine to go. But we’re not comfortable with a restaurant selling a bottle of liquor to go, and that was under discussion. With the law as passed, we don’t believe cocktails to go will impact our spirits sales.

SND: Do you have any other regulatory concerns at this point?

Larue: With more interest in delivery these days, some retailers are seeking off-site storage permits beyond the counties where they operate stores. Our stance is that off-premise storage permits should only be issued in the county or counties where a retailer holds a liquor license.

SND: What are your expansion plans for this year and beyond?

Larue: We have one store opening planned for south Florida this year, and a couple more on the west coast planned for next year.

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