Delivery to consumers will be the biggest change to the alcoholic beverage industry in Maryland during 2018.
A tipping point is now being reached among retail license holders offering delivery to consumers. Despite that it was a change in state law in 2015 that enables delivery, it has taken some time for what is a new rapid and dramatic evolution in operations, widely adopting by the broader retail industry.
The package good store that is not delivering in 2018 has missed the moment of critical mass. Shopping behaviors have changed and while one of the most disruptive Amazon effects is the consumer expecting delivery, Amazon does not delivery alcoholic beverages in Maryland. But as Millennials move into their prime food and beverage spending years, they want everything delivered, not just their prepared food, but also their beverages.
We are not predicting delivery by drones in 2018, but the entire retail alcoholic beverage industry is being reshaped with more modest delivery vehicles.
There are other concomitant trends that both attract Millennials, and also simplify delivery for retailers, like mobile pay. Retailers maximizing delivery opportunities do not limit themselves by only accepting old fashioned credit cards, but also accept Apple Pay, Android Pay, Masterpass, and Visa Checkout. And a retailer can link a PayPal account to Android Pay, or pull from Venmo.
But an alcoholic beverage retailer in Maryland must comply with specific state and local laws to be authorized to deliver.
In Maryland retail delivery to a purchaser of alcoholic beverages is prohibited unless a retail license holder obtains a letter of authorization from the local licensing board to make deliveries. Additionally, and why brick and mortar liquor stores will continue to flourish is that the delivery must be made,
from the licensed premises by the retail license holder or an employee of the retail license holder.
Local licensing boards across the state have different requirements for approving deliveries by a license holder and issuing the required letter of authorization. Fairly typical is the Baltimore County Rule 9 that establishes a fairly rigorous procedure, both for approval and operation. Written application must be made to the Board and the licensee must appear at a public hearing. The rule further provides,
At the time of application for a permit under this rule, a retail licensee shall submit to the Board information concerning the training of its drivers in verifying the age of recipients of alcohol deliveries.
Once approved, the Board requires that for each delivery of alcoholic beverages, “the person delivering the alcoholic beverages and the person receiving the alcoholic beverages shall complete and sign a form provided by the Board.” The retail licensee must retain the form for not less than a month after the delivery.
The rules goes on to make clear, that the person making the delivery “shall refuse to deliver alcoholic beverages” when the intended recipient is under 21 years of age or when “the intended recipient refuses to sign the form required under this rule, or refuses to provide the person making the delivery with a valid driver’s license or other valid government-issued proof of identity with proof of age.”
Completing the form is the price of doing business by delivery and purchasers have come to accept that mild inconvenience for the greater benefit of having that cold craft beer delivered to their door.
Make no mistake, whether or not a particular retail store is delivering, delivery is here and about to explode. Including there are already national phone apps and websites, enabling ordering with a tap or a click, that have partnered with local liquor stores. Other industries, including a local florist is now approved to deliver alcoholic beverages with flowers and gift baskets. Delivery is going to upend existing retailers who do innovate.
There are those who deliver illegally, including those out of state businesses that ship into Maryland (.. that by some estimates may be up to 5% of all retail sales) and expanding legal delivery outlets will no doubt take a bite out of the scofflaws.
Taking advantage of this huge market shift is very much about how well a retailer adapts. The future of alcoholic beverages involves delivery. All existing licensees should make application to the local licensing board today. If we can assist you with your application of structuring a delivery operation, do not hesitate to give us a call.