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How to Become a Beer & Wine Distributor

Updated February 21, 2017

Wine and beer are served at all types of events and venues, so choosing a career that involves distributing the two most affordable types of liquor--beer and wine--would seem to be a great way to make a living. Prove yourself right by taking all the steps necessary to get your distributorship off to a solid start.

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  1. Approach the launch of your beer and wine distributorship from a businessperson's perspective; just because you're dealing in spirits doesn't mean you won't need a long-range business plan that takes into account an assessment of the amount of cash you'll need to start your enterprise, goals and objectives, marketing strategies and policies under which you'll operate.

  2. Research the competition in your area to see if it makes sense to add one more player to the mix. Search the Yellow Pages and Internet to locate the names of wine and beer distributors in your community. Ask buyers at supermarkets, grocery stores, liquor stores and other retailers about their beverage sources. Draw conclusions about the viability of your start-up from your research findings.

  3. Obtain licenses and permits to distribute beer and wine from your local- and state-designated liquor bureaus. Contact beer and wine manufacturers as soon as you've obtained your legal credentials. Negotiate contracts to distribute one or more brands. Seek advice from marketing and sales staffers to learn which products sell best. Find out how much brand-focused marketing and advertising support each company you'll represent is willing to give to your customers.

  4. Set up a warehouse and rack it to hold large quantities of beers and wines so your inventory is always ready to fulfil orders. Purchase insurance coverage equal to the largest amount of inventory you plan to carry. Invest in at least one commercial van for deliveries. Put the van in your distributorship's name so your company insurance covers it.

  5. Keep on top of the variety of tasks you'll be required to perform on behalf of your wine and beer distributorship, including calling on new retailers, supplying existing customers, keeping tabs on your cash flow, obtaining lines of credit, daily inventory checks and the other responsibilities associated with being the owner/operator of a business. Become a beer and wine trend-tracker.

  6. Establish relationships with independent contractors to help you keep your beer and wine distributorship up and running. Hire a good accountant, a reliable mechanic to care for your delivery van and part-time warehouse help. Invest time and money affiliating with an industry-focused organisation that serves, educates and assists people in the beverage distribution business.

  7. Tip

    Alcoholic beverage distributors are subject to myriad federal, state and local laws so you'll want to stay abreast of your state's beverages laws--particularly those associated with beer and wine sales--as well as new legislation that can affect the products you distribute.

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Things You'll Need

  • Business plan
  • Competitive research
  • Licenses and permits
  • Warehouse
  • Racking system
  • Computer
  • Commercial van
  • Operational protocols
  • Insurance

About the Author

Gail Cohen

Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.

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