The Wine and Spirits Guild of America has played a vital role in the growth of the nation’s alcoholic beverage industry.
Comprised of independent retailers and multi-location, intra-state chains, the Guild has about 40 primary members, doing business in states from New York to Alaska and Hawaii. Guild members operate more than 500 stores, accumulating over $2 billion in annual sales. All of which makes the Guild the one wine and spirits association that truly covers the entire United States.
To understand why the Guild is so important to the wine and spirits industry, consider the implications of the 21st Amendment to our Constitution.
By giving each individual state sole control over the sale of alcoholic beverages, this Amendment created an environment unique in all of American retailing. It’s the reason there are no multi-state chains, such as Wal-Mart, in our industry.
Each major market in the US has a leader whose stores are the largest and most successful, who projects the most innovative marketing techniques, offers the finest and deepest selection of spirits, wine, and beer and promotes the moderate and responsible consumption of alcohol.
These market leaders have been selected for membership in The Wine and Spirits Guild, making it the most influential association of alcoholic beverage retailers in the U.S.
The Guild typically meets twice a year with additional organized trips to places like Chile, France, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, etc. In attendance are owners and key decision-makers engaging in an open exchange of information in a peer-based, collaborative environment. Each fall, the Guild gathers in a member’s city for three days. Visits to member stores provide an inside look at how another top retailer operates. During Guild meetings, its members make presentations on a variety of topics, from best practices to current issues facing the alcoholic beverage industry. Given the value of these presentations, as well as the opportunity to get away from the pressures of daily retailing and focus on the big picture, it’s easy to see why attendance at Guild events is always over 90 percent.
Guild members also meet each Spring, typically in a wine or spirit producing region such as Sonoma, Napa or Scotland. Along with several days devoted to best practice presentations, there are numerous meetings “in the field” offering members a chance to meet and learn from producers on their own turf.
In addition to Guild members, key staff and significant others, many leading suppliers also attend, helping create the kind of “cross-pollination” of ideas the Guild is known for. A highlight of the week is a supplier trade show (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) where attendees get to know local and international suppliers. Attendance is frequently over 200, with many more requests to participate than can be granted.
Wine and Spirits Guild members, being recognized as leaders in their local and state markets, have received many of the highest honors from various publications, recognizing Guild members as retailers of the year, and other such prestigious awards, because of their recognized leadership in the industry. The Wine and Spirits Guild is dedicated to maintaining the highest standards of responsible alcoholic beverage retailing, as well as promoting responsible consumption and will continue to grow and prosper as we move further into the 21st century.