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Dec 11

Survival is in the people’s hands

When you’ve got a retail business, the scariest thing is this:

Your business’s ability to survive is in the hands of the consumer.

No matter how varied your products are, no matter how competitive your prices are, no matter how many special events you hold, no matter how good your service offering is, … if the consumer chooses to shop with a megastore rather than an independent retailer, the reserves can only last for so long.

The people choose which businesses will survive.

It is with their money and regular shopping habits that people choose which businesses will survive.

To those of you who shop small business, thank you. I am so grateful. We are here because of you. We hope to be here for the long haul — so keep those referrals coming; keep sharing the love of craft beer with your friends, neighbors, and colleagues.

Do you love megaliquor chains more than specialty shops?

Love question: hands plucking off the petals This year has been difficult. Megaliquor chains are standing tall as the remaining “I love you” petal, as consumers pluck, “I love you, I love you not” by showing their support with their dollars.

Yes, 2014 has been very difficult for small specialty beer & wine stores in Washington State. All of us have lost a significant number of customers to the new megaliquor chain of Total Wine. If we are to survive, we need customers to more regularly “pluck” their favorite alcoholic beverages from our shelves, showing their “love” and support.

It’s difficult to show love in a biased marketplace

Consumer interest in supporting small business would be stronger if they could get all the products they seek at their neighborhood shops. But right now, Washington State favors these out-of-state megaliquor chains by giving them special rights.

This past spring we presented our case of “equal rights for small business” to the public and our state representatives, asking for their support. The Senate overwhelmingly voted yes. The first House Committee locked up the bill, refusing to put it to vote. Despite having hundreds of people contacting Representatives in the House, they refused to give 200 small businesses equal rights to Total Wine, refusing to advance the bill to the House floor.

To give specialty beer/wine stores under 10,000-square feet the equal right to sell spirits would give us the ability to fairly compete. It would bring in more customers, who now want to shop small, but are forced to drive long distances to support the few remaining small spirits businesses or visit the more conveniently located megaliquor chains.

To give small business equal rights to megaliquor chains would give consumers the ability to show their love.

Keep on swimming

My best friend always says, “Keep on swimming. Keep on swimming. Even when the tide is pushing and pulling against you, and you feel you’re being dragged out into the big ol’ sea, all you can do is keep on swimming.”

…I believe this is her take-away from Finding Nemo, applied to everyday life.

I am swimming. I keep on swimming. I swim and swim. Some days I’m treading water more than swimming. Some days my staff are my water wings, keeping me afloat.

“Survival can be summed up in three words — never give up. That’s the heart of it really. Just keep trying.”
—Bear Grylls

I talked with my dad at length last week. He’s been through this before: Operating a family retail business, a big chain comes to town, long-time customers leave for the newer, flashier business.

He tells me, “I wish I had some advice; all you can do is keep on fighting.”

The family experienced last-minute sale of one business, closure of a second. There were moments of total anxiety, fearing that everything would be lost. Business, home, all. Somehow they came out intact. Prayer and perseverance and luck.

So I keep on swimming.

All I can do is continue to be optimistic and courageously fight.
But some days it’s hard to feel optimistic.

If you want your dream to live on, you must fight.

I have hope that people will see the value of independent retailers in their community — and show their regular support by shopping small regularly. After all, it makes sense to buy craft beer from craft shops.

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