Raising the Bar
By Melissa Sherwin
When you walk into Legacy Wine and Spirits for the first time, you may stop and check yourself to make sure you’re in the right place. After all, how many liquor stores feature state-of-the-art LED lighting and large crystal chandeliers hanging overhead? But for this Little Rock, Arkansas store, ambiance is everything.
“We wanted to raise the bar for liquor stores in Arkansas,” says co-owner David Bevans. “We put a lot of thought into the aesthetics, and it’s made a huge difference.”
The owners’ first store existed across town, but after two years they built Legacy, a modern store in a more affluent part of the city. Along with the distinctive lighting, the store features high-end digital kiosks, low shelving units and a very open, uncluttered layout. Bevans says the store was primarily designed to appeal to the area’s housewife clientele, who are the top wine purchasers in the market. Legacy’s wine sales currently account for 50% of the store’s business.
The store’s heavy investment in technology allows Legacy to offer unique programming, such as remote Skype tastings with winemakers and distillers who otherwise wouldn’t be able to visit the store. A tequila maker recently participated in a Skype event from Mexico, and Bevans hopes to expand those international offerings. The Skype sessions are great supplement to the many industry experts who routinely visit Legacy for in-person tastings.
One of the biggest challenges facing Legacy and other Arkansas beverage retailers is the recent legislation permitting wine to be sold at grocery and convenience stores. When this new law took effect, liquor stores were also granted permission to sell consumable products for the first time. As a result, Legacy partnered with a European importer to offer a unique selection of charcuterie, meats, caviar, cheese and confections.
“We want to make it a point to carry a selection of food items that you won’t be able to get at your neighborhood Kroger,” Bevans explains. “It’s a whole new process for people across the state, learning that they can buy food at liquor stores.”
Giving grocery stores the opportunity to sell wine has been a crushing blow to many independent beverage retailers that were already struggling to survive in a highly competitive market. In addition to fighting back by offering a consumable product selection, Legacy also launched a successful consumer loyalty program. Additional customer incentives include offering a 10% discount to customers within 10 days of their birthdays. Other promotions that have proven to be extremely popular with customers
include Legacy’s quarterly sales guides (which are available in print and online) and a 12 Days of Christmas Whiskey Lottery that features a selection of allocated products available for purchase by luck of the draw.
Legacy is also fighting back by helping to form the United Beverage Retailers of Arkansas (UBRA), an organization that was created to unite all independent alcoholic beverage retailers across the state.
“People are typically wary of joining forces and sharing information with other stores, because they view those stores as their competition,” said John Akins, Legacy co-owner and President of UBRA. “But we are all up against these grocery giants together, and they’re some of the biggest corporations in the world. We’re trying to show that there’s strength in numbers.”
After its formation in 2017 to combat legislation, UBRA has since grown to include a variety of other benefits to its members including professional development, training, best practices, lobbying support, industry news and more. During the 2017 legislative session, the organization had 75 active members. Bevans is hoping that number grows considerably.
“We want to dispel the perception that retailers are operating on their own independent islands,” Akins says. “We want to get people to open doors and talk to each other and start collaborating with each other. It’s the only way we’ll continue to maintain our place in the industry.”