Voters have rejected Initiatives 1100 and 1105, preserving Washington’s State Store system for now, but if not for a well-funded No campaign, and the confusion created by dueling privatization initiatives, one or the other might have passed. So this is no time for the state to sit back and relax in the expectation that its profitable liquor monopoly is safe for the foreseeable future.
There are those who are simply opposed to a state-owned liquor monopoly on ideological grounds, and there is no convincing them. Then there are those handful of business interests who seek to profit from privatization at the expense of state coffers. But there are a lot of folks who wouldn’t support privatization as strongly if the State Stores simply addressed the convenience issue.
So here are just a few ideas off the top of my head.
Step One: more stores with extended and Sunday hours. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from people complaining that they couldn’t buy the booze they wanted on a Sunday, or on a Friday or Saturday night.
Step Two: provide delivery service to bars and restaurants. This may sound a little petty, but there are a ton of restaurant owners who really resent having to pick up their booze themselves, when nearly all their other supplies are delivered. They don’t really expect a privatized system to sell them booze much cheaper, they just expect much better service. Give them that, and they won’t be so eager to put their time and money into the next initiative.
Step Three: modernize! You desperately need a brand new consumer oriented website and accompanying phone app that allows customers to remotely check out inventory at neighborhood stores, purchase their order, and then just drop by and pick it up (check out the Redbox website and app for an idea of what I’m talking about.) Customers could even use these tools to make special orders of items not normally stocked.
And that was just after five minutes of brainstorming. I’m sure if you talk to your employees, they probably have a bunch of ideas too about how to make the State Store experience more efficient and more appealing.
The point is, the worst thing a monopoly can do is behave like one; that’s what pisses everybody off. Innovate or die.
I posted a link over on Slog, and folks are chiming in with their own suggested improvements. Lots of good ideas. Hey Olympia… are you listening?