November 4, 2012

Retailers have much at stake in liquor bidding plan

Payment to Maine sellers has remained stagnant even as their store expenses have increased.

By Jessica Hall jhall@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Adam Nappi, owner of Bow Street Market in Freeport, says retailers and resellers as a group support efforts to close the gap between prices in Maine and New Hampshire.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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"We expect as we become more competitive, the market will change. It will send the message if you consume it in Maine, buy it in Maine," Nappi said.

"Lowering the price to consumers is something we all support," Doak said. "A lot of these products are less expensive in New Hampshire. How do we educate and build consumer awareness as things change? So many seasonal visitors are coming to the state having done their shopping elsewhere – groceries, liquor, supplies. We need to build awareness that those items are best bought in Maine."

It's difficult to police restaurants and customers who travel to New Hampshire to buy liquor for use in Maine.

Although consumers are allowed to buy small quantities of liquor in New Hampshire for personal use, it's illegal to buy multiple cases and bring them back into Maine. So restaurants and bars can't stock up with cheaper New Hampshire liquor and bring it back to Maine.

Changing the price for consumers won't immediately lead to a surge in Maine liquor sales overnight because it will take time to educate the public of the change.

"You're not going to change perception overnight," Nowell said.

Paula Truman, wine and spirits manager for Bow Street, agreed: "Perception is the monster."

MARKET FORCES, MARKET THINKING

While some opponents of the current state liquor contract have complained that Maine gave away significant revenues in an attempt to fill a budget gap, others in the liquor industry have said privatizing the liquor contract wasn't so bad, in theory. It led to improved distribution and access to online ordering and increased responsiveness to individual stores.

Having a more business-focused mindset has generally helped improve the liquor business overall, Nappi said.

Maine Beverage Co. declined to comment and its distributor, Pine State Trading Co. did not return calls seeking comment.

"Privatizing the spirits business was a big advancement. Private-sector thinking has been better than bureaucratic thinking. Market forces work really well," Nappi said.

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

jhall@mainetoday.com

 

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