Customers toast state-run liquor stores in survey

March 8, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Customers offered a thumbs-up for state-run liquor stores, but suggested liquor store gift cards and online ordering as possible additions to the system.

The information comes from a Washington State Liquor Control Board survey commissioned after voters rejected ballot measures last fall to privatize the state-run liquor system.

Customers offered high marks for customer service, liquor store employee courtesy, product selection and store locations. The state released the survey results Feb. 8.

“We are pleased that our performance ranked high with customers,” board Chairwoman Sharon Foster said in a statement. “The results help validate the board’s work to modernize stores, improve the customer shopping experience and increase convenience with simple changes, like opening stores on Sundays and holidays.”

Gov. Chris Gregoire directed the liquor board to sponsor a survey to better understand customers’ attitudes about additional stores, updated store models, hours and more after a pair of liquor privatization initiatives — including Costco-backed Initiative 1100 — failed on the November ballot.

Seattle pollster Stuart Elway conducted a telephone survey of 1,210 adult citizens — 599 liquor store customers and 611 noncustomers in December 2010. The state spent $31,000 to complete the survey.

The survey showed 89 percent of respondents graded store employees with A or B for courtesy, 81 percent graded product selection with A or B, 87 percent graded convenience of a store’s location with A or B, and two-thirds of respondents said the state has the “right number” of liquor stores.

Gregoire also directed the liquor board to pursue ideas to improve customer convenience and generate $4.5 million in additional revenue through 2013.

The ideas include adding up to 15 stores — including eight standard stores and up to five pilot projects inside grocery stores and specialty stores in urban markets — creating liquor store gift cards, adding online ordering and offering liquor-related products, such as ice and barware, at state-run stores.

On the Web

Read the complete Washington State Liquor Control Board store performance survey at the board’s website,

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