The intricacies of the 3-tier system for alcoholic beverage distribution most certainly qualify as the kind of complex business process GreatVines (and automation technology in general) is designed to automate. Want to know what else is very complicated? Government and legislation. While software solution providers can’t do much to simplify the way government works, (and they aren’t designed to keep literal tabs on legislative changes in real time) they can ensure their solutions are flexible enough to ensure compliance with any regulatory requirements as may be mandated by those in State Legislatures and in the hallowed halls of Congress. Here are just a handful of the kinds of legislative changes that occur across the US and which a supplier would have a hard time adapting to and recording without some technological assistance.
State legislators in Madison, Wisconsin are again contemplating changes to the laws governing 3-tier distribution in their state. We say “again” because changes were made to their state laws several times over the last ten years. The current proposal would make key changes to how wine, beer and liquor are sold and regulated in the state.
According to the Capital Times’ Katelyn Ferral, the proposed changes would include:
- Creating a distillpub permit issued by the state Department of Revenue that would allow for the sale and manufacture of liquor other than wine and allows a distillery to sell and distribute its spirits
- Increasing the quota by 10 percent, rounded to the nearest whole number, for retail liquor licenses, known as “class B” licenses that municipalities issue
- Increasing the amount of beer that a brewpub may manufacture, from 10,000 to 20,000 barrels per year, and double the number of locations from which they can operate, from six to 12
- Raising the cap on permits that brewers can hold to sell wine and distilled spirits on their premises, and allow brewpubs to sell liquor on site
- Allowing a winery to hold a retail beer license and sell beer on site
- Loosening eligibility requirements for membership in a wine distribution co-op by changing the definition of a “small winery.” Only wineries defined by the Department of Revenue as “small” can be a part of a co-op distributor. This widens that definition by raising the cap on how much wine a small winery can produce, from 25,000 gallons of wine to 50,000 gallons of wine per year
- Eliminating the requirement that beer and liquor wholesalers have a minimum number of customers. Currently, a wholesaler must sell beer to 25 different retailers and liquor to 10 different retailers.
For Wisconsin wine producers themselves and suppliers seeking to sell into these “distillpubs” and winery tasting rooms, each of these proposed changes represents a sales opportunity. Each also represents a set of data that is essential to properly marketing to these organizations. With 49 other states – each with its own set of regulatory guidelines and periodic changes thereto – it is comforting to know there is technology to help keep track of it all and to optimize sales and marketing operations in response.
Wine Searcher’s Blake Gray noted in a recent feature, “The accessibility of wine is being reduced as delivery companies police the shipping law instead of state agencies.” The article reports on a crackdown on the interstate shipment of wine which is currently underway by leading shippers, UPS and FedEx. The 3-tier system permits each state to enact its own regulations governing sale and distribution in their state. With so much variation in the laws from state to state, shippers tended to turn a blind eye to these packages. State lawmakers have been exerting pressure on parcel carriers to help better enforce their laws and the carriers are complying. Again, there is a high level of variability to manage in dealing with the way laws are not only enacted, but enforced; and technology is going to be more effective than any manual process when it comes to keeping track of such changes.
In sum, there are too many moving parts to keep track of when it comes to marketing and selling in the 3-tier system and change is the only constant.