large retail chain like Wal-Mart or Meijer is a complicated business. A tiny
part of it involves the coordination required for chain-wide promotional
pricing campaigns on particular products. One can imagine that memos to store
managers would sometimes be part of the routine, along with countless other
was a memo sent by a retail chain headquarters to the store managers, it
would be an entirely unexceptional matter of business routine, of no interest
to any normal person.
One such letter (read it here) was not circulated within a private-sector retail chain, however, but by
a Michigan government agency — the Liquor Control Commission, empowered to
be the wholesaler for every bottle of distilled spirits sold in the state.
Also, this government agency imposes a minimum shelf price on
every bottle sold.
about that for a second: Why in the world is the government of the state of
Michigan involved in the details of Christmas holiday marketing promotions
related to retail liquor sales?
letter is not unique — the LCC undoubtedly communicates with its
agents on countless minor procedural and pricing details. As any
Wal-Mart or Meijer's manager will tell you, there’s a lot of detail involved in
distributing and marketing retail products.
unique, but the fact that the letter is from a government agency
within the United States of America makes it bizarre.
unlike those retail chains, this government outfit is a monopoly,
with no competitors forcing it to be efficient and focused on maximizing
value for consumers. In essence, the state of Michigan runs a Soviet-style
state wholesale monopoly for a nearly $1 billion retail market.
more on state liquor control see the essay “State Pours Interference on Liquor
Business” and the video “Convoluted
Distribution Laws Hurt Local Craft Brewers.”
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