2002 doesn’t seem like that long ago, but judging by this January/February issue from that year, it might as well have been a completely different era.
Our Retailer of the Year in 2002 was Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits, based in Dallas. By 2010, the chain had grown to nearly 50 stores across North Texas, and was acquired by an investment group. Two years later, the company was suffering major losses, unable to pay sales taxes, and many stores were refused delivery by Texas distributors.
Following a bankruptcy filing, Houston-based Spec’s (a fellow Retailer of the Year) purchased the trademarks and remaining Centennial stores in 2013.
The recession, increased competition and changes to Texas liquor laws all led to the chain’s eventual demise. But what was most surprising was the speed at which Centennial went under. The previous owners ran the company from 1967 through 2010, but within two short years the new owners bankrupted a company with hundreds of millions of dollars a year in sales.
The Centennial story should serve as a cautionary tale for all beverage retailers.
New York passed a spirits tasting bill in 2002, allowing retailers to offer in-store samples to customers. Today, 46 states allow some form of off-premise tastings. Retailers in more permissive states are even opening licensed bars within or adjacent to their stores, further blurring the line between the on- and off-premise.
Pictured in the right column of the story is Frank Coleman of DISCUS celebrating the win for retailers. Coleman remains SVP of Communications at the lobbying group.
The early 2000s were a time of mergers, acquisitions and buyouts. The sale of Seagram’s (then owned by Vivendi Universal) to Pernod Ricard and Diageo was approved in 2002, following an antitrust review by the FTC. The two suppliers paid more than $8 billion for Seagram’s, with Crown Royal and Captain Morgan among the brands going to Diageo and Chivas Regal, Glenlivet and others going to Pernod Ricard.
During my recent visit to the Crown Royal distillery in Gimli, many of the long-time workers still donned their Seagram’s clothing and talked fondly of their time at the company, which retains a place in Canadians’ hearts more than a decade after its dissolution.
NBC ran a national commercial in 2002 for Diageo, the first such national ad since the industry ended its voluntary ban five years earlier. The network and brand agreed on a laundry list of 19 guidelines before agreeing to run the ad, which was a responsible consumption spot for Smirnoff that ran during Saturday Night Live.
I remember watching SNL that week and seeing the Smirnoff ad, not thinking much of it at the time (I wasn’t following the industry closely at that time since I was 17). Though I do remember reading news articles shortly after debating whether it was a wise decision by NBC. Today, no one thinks twice when they see a distilled spirit commercial on television. They’re not quite as ubiquitous as beer commercials, but they’ve become part of mainstream advertising.
Cutting edge at the time, anything called a “Fax Blast” would rightly be considered antiquated today. In 2002, this was a product offered by the owners of Beverage Dynamics to help beverage suppliers reach retailers in an innovative way. Today, there are many legal drinking age consumers who never sent a fax, and some who have probably never seen a fax machine in person.