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WSWA’s first-ever philanthropy report spotlights wholesalers’ community involvement

4 min read


(Photo: WSWA)

Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America is releasing this spring its first-ever report on just how involved wholesalers get in their communities titled Investing in Communities. Through various philanthropic efforts across the country, wholesalers large and small are giving back – an effort that goes largely undocumented.

“Because the work of wholesalers is so widespread in every community where they operate, and it has long been behind the scenes, we felt it is an essential story to tell because philanthropy and engagement are an essential part of who wholesalers are and how they operate,” says Jeff Solsby of WSWA.

The wholesale industry is widespread with over 63,000 workers earning a total of approximately $5 billion in wages each year working at 4,400 locations, the report says.

Produced on a biennial basis going forward, every winter and spring in odd-numbered years, the report’s release will coincide with the seating of new congresses and legislatures, and will be updated and refreshed on an ongoing basis, according to Solsby.

From organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Autism Speaks, Make-A-Wish Foundation, American Red Cross and Meals on Wheels, to name just a few, wine and spirits wholesalers are showing dedication to community health, social responsibility, children, people in need, veterans and cultural resources.

“WSWA is an association that doesn’t push this activity – our members do it on their own for a variety of reasons,” Solsby tells us. “One of those reasons is that wholesalers are all family-owned businesses, and family involvement and community engagement go hand-in-hand. Employees often report feeling like they are a member of the family and that is one of the key distinctions for wholesaler employees.”

Wholesalers are local marketing experts and build brands for suppliers in each local market they serve. This means that their staff and professionals are deeply engaged in a host of activities and philanthropic endeavors in their communities.

Horizon Beverage Group is one of the many wholesalers highlighted in the report. It has donated $80,000 to the Massachusetts Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to help develop future culinary leaders.

“We live in the community, we’re a part of the community so it’s important to give back to the community,” says Horizon’s Senior Vice President Doug Epstein. “Where we work is where we live.”

Much of Horizon’s customer base is small local businesses so it wants to support that, Epstein tells us.

“Some of our customers are from the supermarket or club stores, but a majority are local operations — it’s about the ownership of living here,” he adds.

While giving back has always been something that wine and spirits wholesalers have been regularly involved in, Epstein agrees that the industry’s philanthropic efforts have largely gone unnoticed and undocumented.

“It’s nothing unusual, we’ve always done it, but we never had a way to codify it and say to the public, ‘Hey, look at this, this is the value that the three-tier system provides to the marketplace,’” he elaborates. “We’re regulated locally, we’re operated locally and we give back locally.”

He describes the first-of-its-kind report as “an important vehicle for [wholesalers] to measure [themselves] and see what direction [they’re] going.”

As an association, WSWA feels that the story of philanthropy and community engagement is powerful and important, Solsby says. “And it’s one of our goals to do a better job of telling this story to a wide array of audiences.”

Because of the nature of industry, wholesalers directly engage with clients, often having real relationships, which spurs a level of philanthropy unmatched by other industries, such as the automobile or software industries, Epstein points out.

“I think that if people stepped back and thought about it, every charity event that they go to, and what part a beverage alcohol wholesaler takes part in that, particularly the legislatures and the public, I think they’d really be amazed if they added it all up,” he says. “It gets taken for granted, even by our own industry, but it’s a wonderful thing we do, and it’s really one of the high points of what we do, I think, compared to other industries.”

Download the report.

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