Just yesterday, the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB), which oversees the federal regulation of alcohol sales, issued an industry ruling clarifying what is permitted and what is not permitted in retailers getting assistance in displaying alcoholic products for sale.  Under federal tied-house prohibitions, suppliers and wholesalers of alcohol are not allowed to provide money, supplies, services, or things of value to retailers (e.g., grocery stores, casinos, convenience stores, taverns, restaurants), unless an exception is permitted.  One of those exceptions allows for suppliers and wholesalers to recommend a shelf plan or shelf schematic, such as those rows of wine in a grocery store or the various aisles in a liquor store.

The TTB ruling clarified that any additional services that accompany a shelf plan or schematic may violate federal tied-house rules.  Some examples given by the TTB include furnishing market data from third-party vendors, providing follow-up services to monitor and revise the plan or schematic, or furnishing labor to perform merchandising or other functions (other than stocking, rotating, or pricing services of its own product), such as cleaning. maintaining, and resetting shelves.

When reading this ruling in conjunction with prior TTB action against alcohol suppliers giving incentives (slotting fees) for preferential display space, one can see that the TTB takes alcohol display decisions very seriously.