Ax the Bev Tax

Philadelphia Business Journal

Business lessons from the soda tax

By Craig Ey, Editor-in-chief

March 9


Let me just say right off the bat that, as a member of the media, I like Mayor Jim Kenney.

He’s accessible. He’s not afraid to take any question. And he brings a South Philly-style forthrightness to the job.

But his approach to business needs some work. In particular, I think someone should sit the mayor down and explain to him how business works and how in the world of economic development, perception often becomes reality.

Here’s what Mayor Kenney told Fox 29 this week, answering a question about the controversial city soda tax: “Jeff Brown and some of those groups out there jacked up prices beyond what the tax calls for. They started collecting the tax four days before the tax went into effect. They’ve been stockpiling product from June to January. They are charging the tax at point-of-sale, which it was never intended to do. And they’re putting the money in their pockets.”

Jeff Brown is a fourth-generation grocer who is now CEO of Brown’s Super Stores Inc., the operator of ShopRite markets in the region. In business and life, nobody is perfect, but Brown has come pretty close to being a model business leader.

He’s famously opened ShopRites in Philadelphia “food deserts” — impoverished neighborhoods without access to fresh groceries. His success in such areas has led to national, positive news coverage for Brown and Philadelphia on PBS NewsHour and National Public Radio. In 2010, Brown was a guest of Michelle Obama for that year’s State of the Union address and he was recognized by the president during the speech.

So Brown, by reputation and practice, is hardly a mustache-twirling baron who wants to keep kids from attending pre-school. But he is in business, and he is well within his rights to stake the position that the soda tax is hurting his sales.

Here’s a teaching moment for the mayor: No business is going to push customers out the door just to send you a message. Oh sure, they’ll lobby and they’ll spend money on political campaigns. Some may even print little signs telling customers why their soda price is higher. But they’re not going to engage in a conspiracy to intentionally lower sales by pushing their loyalists to cheaper, suburban pastures. There’s one simple reason — you never know if you’ll get those customers back.

Kenney, at this point, should stick to forcefully defending the positives that will come from the increased revenue. Undereducated youth is an economic development issue; maybe you should frame it that way.

In the meantime, Mr. Mayor, stay away from the Trump-like attacks on the business leaders who are employing your constituents. It’s not a good look for you or for Philadelphia’s all-important job creation efforts.

Click here to view article.

Take a stand!

Yes, I want to be listed as a part of the city wide effort to ax the Philly beverage tax.

Click here to verify that you are above the age of 13 and have read our privacy policy.