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Philly Wegmans Misreads Needs of consumers

December 14, 2007


The head of Pennsylvania’s retail beer distributors group says it is apparent that the management of Wegmans super market in suburban Philadelphia is misreading consumers in its drive to offer beer by the bottle and by the six-pack at its Warrington (Bucks County) store.

“It’s apparent from quotes attributed to their Warrington store manager, Blaine Forkell, that they see most Pennsylvanians as morally and socially misguided,” said David Shipula of Wilkes-Barre, president of the Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania.  Local media quoted Forkell as suggesting after a Warminster Township hearing on Thursday that Pennsylvanians were in the “Dark Ages” about beer sales.

Shipula said a recent poll commissioned by MBDA showed that voters statewide were almost evenly split, against and for supermarket and convenience store sales of beer, with 48.9 percent opposed and 47.9 percent supporting.

“When you look at how strongly people feel about either position, though, you see an even wider split with 35 percent strongly opposed to selling beer where groceries and gasoline are sold, only 27 percent strongly in favor and 37 percent somewhere in between,” the Wilkes-Barre beer distributor said.

“What’s also telling is that more than 60 percent think the present system of retail distributors works pretty well and provides a wide array of consumer choices in terms of foreign and domestic beers, micro-brews, craft brews and brand names,” Shipula said.  “If anything popped up as a potentially popular improvement it would be allowing retail distributors to sell in less than case lots.  In the Philadelphia suburbs, 79 percent of those interviewed were in favor of that.”

Shipula said his group was strongly opposed to any legislation that would ease Pennsylvania’s historic ban on beer sales where groceries or gasoline are sold. “This is good public policy that has been in place for 70 years.  Of late, some chains like Wegmans on the grocery side and Sheetz on the gasoline side have been finding loopholes in the law to co-locate beer sales with groceries and gasoline, but that doesn’t make it right or good public policy.”

 
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