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ALCOHOL OUTLOOK: More than a six-packIndustry group: Convenience stores selling beer can increase customer base to make other sales

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Beer sales in Pennsylvania would be a way to help convenience stores expand customer bases but wouldn't invite new competitors into the market simply because they'd be able to sell it, according to an official with the Virginia-based National Association of Convenience Stores.

An outline of Gov. Tom Corbett's alcohol sales reform proposals states that convenience stores in the commonwealth would be allowed to sell a customer a six-pack of beer.

Beer sales alone won't revolutionize the midstate's convenience market, but it will give an opportunity for stores to increase their customer base, which they sell many different products to, said Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the association.

Someone who might go to a six-pack shop or distributor for beer could stop into a convenience store, where the store has a chance to sell other products, Lenard said.

"It's just not the profit on a six-pack of beer here," he said.

Regardless, new competitors would be unlikely to come into the midstate among established convenience retailers such as York County-based Rutter's Farm Stores and Blair County-based Sheetz Inc. solely due to a newly established right to sell beer, Lenard said.

"You had better bring something to the table," he said.

Rutter's said it had no comment until more information is known about the proposal, which as of the start of this week had not been introduced as legislation. Several other major players in the midstate convenience store market did not return phone calls for comment.

On the six-pack limitation, Lenard said he didn't know whether people would understand why they couldn't choose their quantities at a convenience store.

"It's still not leveling the playing field," he said. "It is making it more level, but it's not level."

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