Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

Friday, March 4, 2011

To the Editor:

As a current Fort Scott business owner, I feel that I need to defend myself and our 25 employees that live and work in Fort Scott from statements Mr. Jim Scott made in a recent Letter to the Editor. With all due respect to Mr. Scott, I want to set the record straight.

In Economics 101, we all learned that competition is a good thing for consumers. Free and fair competition is always in the best interest of all of our customers regardless of whose customers they are. Unrestricted competition equates to lower prices to customers.

Restricting competition, as current Kansas liquor laws do, inflates prices not only on beer, wine and spirits, but on all consumables in Kansas. Keeping liquor stores protected from competition inflates prices customers pay for their products.

Liquor stores have ever-increasing operating expenses that have to be covered that are passed on to their customers.

Because liquor stores are by law restricted from selling other products, they have to cover their cost of doing business on the one thing they sell, alcohol.

Senate Bill 54 amends those outdated laws to allow liquor stores to sell everything we grocery and convenience store retailers sell today.

This will help them offset any losses of sales with new, creative sales that complement their current sales. Soda, mixers, cheeses that compliment wine, party favors, ice, and it doesn't stop there. They will be able to sell chips, snacks, candy bars, groceries, tobacco, gasoline, even diapers if they so choose. In effect, they can choose to become convenience stores. Do we particularly like the idea of giving up items we currently sell? Not really, as it will create even more competition on the things we currently sell as well. The ultimate winner in this is the customer.

Similarly, we convenience and grocery retailers must cover our ever- increasing cost of doing business. Employee wages, utilities, taxes and insurance costs continue to rise and we have to pass that on to our customers through the products we sell as well.

Since we grocery and c-store retailers are currently restricted by Kansas law from selling so-called strong beer (proven to be similar in alcohol content as 3.2 beer), wine and spirits we then must make our profits on what we are allowed to sell thereby inflating retail prices that our customers pay.

Now complicate all this with the fact that nearly one-third of the Kansas population lives in a border county next to Missouri, we Kansas retailers are put in an even further competitive disadvantage. Missouri taxes on gasoline are less than Kansas'.

Missouri has the cheapest tobacco taxes in the nation. Missouri retailers can also sell strong beer, wine and spirits. Wow, talk about a competitive advantage over Kansas retailers! Is it any wonder that nearly every highway into Missouri has a c-store to attract Kansas customers just across the border?

Is it any wonder that gas prices in Missouri are as much as 20 cents a gallon lower than in Kansas. Not only do the Missouri stores benefit from less taxes on gas, but they don't have to rely on a fuel profit either further widening the disparity. We certainly have to rely on a gas profit here on the Kansas side.

So yes, Mr. Scott, I truly believe that reforming current antiquated Kansas liquor laws will create needed competition and will disincentivize some Kansans from choosing to cross into Missouri to make their purchases on not only beer, wine, and spirits but also on gasoline and other consumables.

As new sales come back into Kansas, so do additional state and local sales taxes as well as additional state excise taxes from motor fuel and tobacco sales. Who then are the winners? Kansas customers and the Kansas economy.

For more information on the positive economic impact of reforming current Kansas liquor laws on the Kansas economy, please visit www.jobsforkansas.com

Mr. Scott, I certainly am not happy when any business closes.

But let's take Fort Scott as an example. I have had no choice but to close two convenience stores in Fort Scott so that the remaining stores can be more efficient. Two other stores in or near Fort Scott have closed in recent years. I would love to see those stores re-open, maybe by an entrepreneurial minded current liquor store owner that wants more opportunity to succeed than currently afforded them under the restrictions of current Kansas liquor laws.

As far as Pete's involvement in the Fort Scott community, we contribute to nearly every request we get from every community we serve. In Fort Scott alone our donations and support topped $8,000 in 2010. Is that enough? Probably not, but we do what we can and we will continue to try harder in the future. We are also members of every local Chamber where we serve and why we are not in Fort Scott is beyond me. I personally reached out to the Fort Scott Chamber three weeks ago, long before Mr. Scott's letter, so I know our membership is in process. For Mr. Scott to say that "we, Pete's, are a non-participant in the Fort Scott community" is false and insulting to not only me but also to of our Fort Scott employees.

I, too, want to urge anyone that wants fair and healthy competition that works for the benefit of all customers to contact Senator Marshall's office and ask him to support Kansans and our economy by voting "yes" on Senate Bill 54. Respectfully speaking, Sen. Marshall is currently on the wrong side of this issue as a "no" vote. He needs to hear from his constituents who favor free enterprise and competitive principles and who are tired of spending their money in Missouri.

Tell him to support SB 54 and keep our tax dollars here in Southeast Kansas, working for Southeast Kansans.

Gratz Peters

Pete's Convenience Stores