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The Pac Northwest is Heating Up! Learn How to Harness the Growth

Next week, our team will be in Napa to celebrate our 8th annual DIRECT Conference. If you’ll be in the area on June 13th, we’d love for you to attend!

But did you know that we’ll also be holding events in Oregon and Washington this month?

It’s easy to see why hundreds of brands in the Pac Northwest have begun to use ShipCompliant in the past few years; the region is now a formidable force in direct-to-consumer sales. When we compiled our 2013 Direct Shipping Report, we saw growth across the entire market, but Oregon and Washington stood out as outperformers. Though their direct wine sales are about one fifth of Napa’s, the upward trend is hard to ignore.


Let’s take a closer look at Washington.


According to our 2013 Direct Shipping Report, the Evergreen State has seen monumental growth in its wine industry, with year over year volume growth of more than 18% in 2012.Not only that, but the average price of a bottle from Washington has risen 19%. This has pushed the market past the $50 million mark for the first time last year, and is showing no signs of slowing down.

It also seems that the best food pairing for a glass of Washington Cabernet Sauvignon, is, in fact, another glass of Washington Cabernet Sauvignon. Sales of the varietal have shot up over 69% in the past year. Cabernets, Syrahs, and blends now represent 70% of the state’s market for wine by volume.

Heading south a bit, our friends in Oregon have also enjoyed huge success in recent years. The state boasted a 10% gain in direct shipping sales last year, and its average price per bottle has risen to over $37, slightly above that of both Washington and Sonoma.

The 2004 Paul Giamatti film “Sideways” was set in Santa Barbara, where the actor’s character was obsessed with Pinot Noir. Based on our data, the film could have easily been set in Oregon, where the varietal represents 60% of total shipping volume, as well as the highest average bottle price at $47. No other region is more dominated by a single type of wine than the Beaver State.

The source of Oregon’s rise in direct shipping, however, is not forged by Pinot alone. Now that Oregon has established itself as a haven for aspiring grapes, more varietals have stepped up to the plate, as Pinot Noir’s annual volume remains flat. Syrah/Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Franc have all exploded in 2012 with growth of over 100% each. Meanwhile, Cabernet Sauvignon’s average price per bottle has risen 30%, to $35. Though these varietals have a long way to go to catch up to Pinot Noir, it’s this diversity that is truly fueling the state’s rapid ascent.

We welcome this growth, and we love to see it. In fact, we’re hosting two events in the Pacific Northwest this month, along with our sponsors, Moss Adams LLP. We call it “Step-by-Step,” and we’ve designed these seminars to help wineries finance, account for, and act compliantly through the rapid positive changes happening in their businesses.

To sign up for our June 18th seminar in Oregon, click here!

To sign up foro ur June 20th seminar in Washington, click here!

Is the Marketplace Fairness Act Fair for Wineries?


In short, yes, for a couple of reasons:

1. Wineries already pay sales tax in most states
2. The vast majority of wineries will likely be exempt from the law

So what is it, exactly?

Senate Bill S. 743, more commonly known as the “Marketplace Fairness Act“, is a pretty simple bill that would give states the ability to require out of state businesses that have “remote sales” in excess of $1 million annually to remit sales taxes. Each state would be able to opt in to the Act, but only after they have simplified their tax structure, either by joining the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement or to follow the steps outlined in the bill to simplify their sales tax requirements.

Will it pass?

With broad bi-partisan support, S. 743 passed out of the Senate with a vote of 69 to 27. However, a tough battle is expected in the House, and therefore the Marketplace Fairness Act has a long way to go before it is enacted with a signature from President Obama. Amazon.com is supporting the bill (presumably because they would like to move forward with their plans to build warehouses in each state to support same-day shipping), while eBay is one of the main voices in opposition.

What will it mean for wineries?

A lot hinges on the definition of “remote sales”. Keep in mind the fact that state legislation to allow wine shipments typically includes a provision that also requires wineries to register for and pay sales tax. As it stands in the Senate version, and based on our interpretation of the current language, sales by wineries to states where they are already required to pay sales tax would not be counted when considering the $1 million threshold for remote sales.

Based on some quick analysis, there are a few hundred wineries in the US that ship more than $1 million worth of wine to consumers each year. BUT, if you include sales only to those states (Alaska, Colorado, D.C., Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Wyoming) that do not require wineries to pay sales tax, then we estimate that less than 25 wineries would exceed the $1 million cap. In other words, the vast majority of the 7,000+ wineries in the US would be exempt from this law.

Wineries are already accustomed to calculating, collecting, and remitting sales taxes in most states. So, for those wineries that would not be exempt from this law, it would probably not be that big of a deal to add a few more states (initially the states of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, and Wyoming) to the list of states to which they would be required to remit sales tax. They already have the technology and processes to do so.

The bill would take effect, at the earliest, on October 1st, 2013. Once effective, the 22 “Streamlined” sales tax states would begin requiring sales tax for remote sellers with over $1 million in sales. After that, each of the remaining 28 states would choose whether to opt in to the Act and start requiring sales tax from remote sellers.

Wine Retailers Can Only Ship to 14 States

Map of the Retailer Direct Shipping States

Since the 2005 Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision addressing the interstate direct shipment of wine, the number of states allowing out-of-state wineries to ship directly to consumers has increased from 31 states to 40. The experience for licensed wine retailers (for example: brick and mortar wine shops, California Type 85 or 20 licensees and auction houses) however, has been somewhat different. The number of states previously available to retailers since 2005 has declined from 18 to 14 states and the District of Columbia.

What Retailers Need to Know

To help retailers navigate the market, we’ve created a quick reference guide, including basic information on regulations in the states available for retailer-to-consumer wine shipping. This guide includes links to license applications, statutes, state websites, and volume limits (if applicable). Note that four states on this list are “reciprocal” states. Reciprocity means generally that if state X’s retailers are allowed to ship into state Y, then state Y’s retailers may ship into state X without the need to obtain a direct shipper license or permit in the destination state. These states are: Idaho, Missouri, New Mexico, and California. General requirements that apply to interstate retail shipments also include but are not limited to:


Download the Retailer Wine Shipping Guide

All states available to retailers are also available to wineries, and in many cases the regulations for the two shippers are similar. Indeed, permit-required states like North Dakota and New Hampshire allow for retailers and wineries to use the same application process and abide by the same rules in order to direct ship wine to that state. With this observation in mind, it would stand to reason that there is the potential for retailers to be welcomed to the same direct shipping states as wineries; actual practice, however, gives wineries access to three times the amount of the US market share.

Additional resources:









Hidden Costs of Direct Shipping Licensing

Before jumping into a direct shipping program in a new state, wineries should consider their current prospect list, market potential, shipping difficulty and costs. When it comes to calculating start-up costs to enter a new state, there is often more than meets the eye. In addition to license fees, wineries may need to budget for a number of “hidden” fees including bonds, label registration fees and other application fees.

Bonds

Some states require wineries to obtain a bond in order to secure a direct shipping license. A bond is a written guaranty, purchased from a bonding company (usually an insurance firm or a surety company), to guarantee that all taxes due will be paid to the state. If there is a failure to pay, the bonding company will make good up to the amount of the bond.

Bonds for direct shippers range from $500-$1500 depending on the state, but premiums, or out-of-pocket costs, to wineries typically average around 10% of the total bond price, or $50-$180 out-of-pocket on an annual or biannual basis. Different bonding agents may quote different rates, so it pays to shop around.

Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Texas and Wisconsin all require that wineries secure a bond before submitting your license application. For wineries that ship 40,000 gallons or more annually, Oregon issues a bond document after the license application has been received but before the license is issued. Wineries that ship less than 40,000 gallons to Oregon annually can apply for a bond wavier.

Label Registration

Several states require brand or label registrations for direct shipping. Ohio, a state that 26% of direct shippers have in their program, requires wineries to register all the labels that will be shipped into the state for a one-time registration fee of $50 per label.

If that sounds pricey to you, consider Connecticut who charges $200 per label and requires labels to be re-registered every 3 years if they are still actively shipped into the state.

Georgia, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and Virginia do not charge a fee though label or brand registration is required in these states.

Application Fees

Some states may require business, Secretary of State or tax registration, or other one-time application fees. This varies from state to state and depends on how your business is structured. Wineries that start shipping to Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia or Wisconsin may encounter one or more of these fees.

License, bond, label registration and application fees all factor into the true break-even costs of shipping to a new state. The key to ensuring a profitable direct shipping program is to research thoroughly in order to avoid getting caught off-guard with unexpected costs.

Wine Distribution Notes – Release 28

The latest version of Notes on Wine Distribution by R. Corbin Houchins is now available for viewing or downloading. Release 28 highlights changes in the following categories: Age & Identity Verification, Rethinking Reciprocity and State Notes, specifically Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Headings of sections with substantial changes since the preceding release (published in early April, 2008) are highlighted, so that you can easily find the updated sections.

You can always view the most current version of Houchins’s Notes on Wine Distribution by visiting ShipCompliantBlog.com and clicking on the “Wine Distribution Notes” link under “Compliance Resources” on the right-hand side of the page.

Oregon – The Next Round is Just Starting

With a new law allowing out-of-state wineries to sell directly to Oregon retailers, effective January 1, Oregon looked like a bright star in the winery self-distribution field. Oregon had chosen to level up, allowing both domestic and out-of-state wineries to sell direct to retailers. It seemed as if free trade in wine had arrived.

But, in a preemptive strike just before the New Year, the Oregon wholesalers decided that the new law was the perfect vehicle to attack central warehousing by Oregon chain retailers.

In an e-mail circulated in late December, the wholesalers told chain retailers operating in Oregon that “the central warehousing of wine by a retailer” was no longer allowed and that a “retail license does not allow the retailer to transport wine or beer from one licensed location to another, even if the two locations are owned by the same entity.”

Retailers, who had for years used Oregon wholesalers to import wine and then have it delivered to the retailer’s central warehouse for the retailer to transport it to their retail locations, found themselves scrambling when wholesalers refused to deliver wine to their warehouses, even before the new law took effect. This was not wine purchased in a direct sale between the out-of-state winery and the retailer, but wines imported by, and purchased from, the Oregon wholesaler, as had been done for years.

The regular readers of the ShipCompliant blog may recall that the issue of central warehousing by Oregon retailers was discussed extensively in a prior blog post titled “An Exchange on Central Warehousing”. While Oregon had no statute prohibiting the practice, the OLCC had enunciated the position that central warehousing was not consistent with its regulations. However, the blog post carefully analyzed the Commission’s position and found it unsupported by law or logic.

For retailers in Oregon, the OLCC’s position was strange because many of the chain retailers had been receiving wine into their central warehouses and delivering to their own stores for YEARS. Some of them had letters from the Commission specifically approving the practice. The Commission took no steps to revoke these prior letters and let the practice continue.

So the wholesalers took it upon themselves to see if they could end retailers’ practice of central warehousing. While not articulated directly, the wholesalers are apparently relying on the provisions of the new wine self-distribution law to claim the practice is now outlawed. First, the new law does require that wine purchased direct from a winery must be received at a premise with a license endorsed to receive direct sales. [Section 2.(5) of HB 2677.]

But does that mean that the wine, during transit, must always stop at a licensed location? Could the wine be stored and transported from an unlicensed location, such as a central warehouse, before coming to the premises with the license with the proper endorsement?

Second, the new law in Section 2b contains provisions relating to who may ship wine under this new permit. Apparently the wholesalers believe that since retailers are not mentioned as one of the licensees who may transport direct sales wine in this section, retailers may no longer transport or ship wine at ANY TIME, even between their own stores, a practice that had been allowed for years. Again, it is not clear that the new law dealing specifically with direct sales by wineries to retailers was designed to limit retailers’ rights to transport or ship their own inventories of wine. Apparently the struggle to define who can ship wine, and under what circumstances is now open for debate.

The OLCC has just convened a rule advisory committee this week to help draft the final regulations to implement the both Wine Direct Shipper and Wine Self-Distribution permits, with formal rulemaking to follow this spring. We can expect round two to be exciting as the wholesalers decided to open it with a quick punch before the bell.