Liquor sales rebound in months after privatization

December 6, 2012

By Staff

NEW — 6 p.m. Dec. 6, 2012

Consumers stockpiled spirits in May, leading to a Junes sales slump, but in the months since private liquor sales started, spirit sales rebounded, state revenue officials reported Tuesday.

The state Department of Revenue said spirit sales by volume increased 2.9 percent between June and September from the same period a year earlier.

Retailers sold almost 13.6 million liters of spirits from June through September, compared to the 13.2 million liters sold at state-run liquor stores during the same period a year earlier.

Sales spiked in May as consumers prepared for the transition from state stores to private retailers, and then declined in June, presumably due to the inventories built up in May.

The average retail price for a liter of spirits, including taxes, came to $24.09 in September, compared to $21.58 at state liquor stores a year earlier — 11.6 percent more, or almost a $2 increase for a standard 750-milliliter bottle, to $18.07 from $16.19 last year.

The overall numbers mask a divergence between consumer purchases at retail stores and purchases by bars and restaurants. Consumers purchased 7.9 percent more spirits from June through September, but on-premise businesses bought 12.6 percent less, presumably because businesses purchased substantially more liquor in May, the last month the state operated liquor stores.

Officials said bars and restaurants could still be working down inventories, but higher prices, weaker demand and supply issues could also be factors.

Washingtonians voted to privatize liquor sales by passing Initiative 1183 last year, a measure backed by Issaquah-based Costco.

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