OWASSO – A month has passed since the new laws were enacted regarding Oklahoma’s regulation of beer, wine and liquor. Title 37A reformed the liquor laws within Oklahoma, allowing grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer and wine throughout the week. Those against State Question 792, which spurred the reform, were concerned about local liquor retailers.
One month since the laws went into effect on Oct. 1, local store owner Jason Hower has seen some small changes in his business but has plans to compete against the conglomerate grocery stores and gas stations.
“Initially, the first few days in October, we noticed a definite downturn in our wine sells especially,” Hower, owner of Kwenchers Wine and Spirits, explained. “But we were really excited to see that that trend kind of balance back out, and sells would pick back up. We might not be showing as much growth as we have had in the past, but we are definitely rebounded nicely where we are about even with where we were.”
Hower believes that newness won out in the beginning and that customers just wanted to see what the grocery stores and gas stations had to offer and at what price.
“Everybody that works in here are consumers too,” Hower said. “We all enjoy wine and we were curious to see what the supermarkets had and at what price they have it.”
Though some of the newness has worn off, Hower has still taken steps to compete with the supermarkets. One tactic that he has implemented at Kwenchers Wine and Spirits is price matching with stores like Walmart.
“So, I guess one of the things we’ve done to, I guess, compete is you see like these items here,” Hower said pointing to a rack of Barefoot wine bottles. “The things that they carry at the supermarket that they price low, we went ahead and had some shelf talkers made that just points out to our customers we’ve matched those prices.”
Another aspect that Hower believes local liquor retailers have that the supermarkets still do not is a wide variety.
“I think when they’re going to host, or want something new, they’re still going to come to the liquor store,” Hower said. “When they want one bottle to get with dinner that night and they don’t want to make two stops. Yeah, they’re going to pick it up at the supermarket.”
Another way that Kwenchers is planning to combat the negative aspects of the law is to broaden the variety and type of products that they offer. They have already begun to provide locally sourced items, such as hot sauces, Bloody Mary mixes and other items.
“One of things that has been fun too is trying to figure out what we are going to carry that’s non-alcoholic and learning what our customers want and what’s going to sell well,” Hower said. “That’s one of the things that I want to try to do here at Kwenchers too is to diversify with, you know, maybe some grocery items but grocery items that are made in Oklahoma.”
The long-term effect of the new, reformed liquor laws is unpredictable and uncertain for some stores. One thing that is certain is that there has been an undeniable change in the liquor retail business.
“I guess two months, or a month ago, we only looked at other stores as competitors, and I would think, I can only speak for myself, but I would think right now we’re all probably more worried about what QuikTrip and Walmart and Reasor’s are doing than what the liquor store a mile or two down the road is doing,” Hower said. “It is an interesting shift…”
Though Walmart might be a competitor, Hower went on to say that he is still glad to have them as a neighbor.