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Privatized liquor sales up in July despite higher prices

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Sep. 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
September 10, 2012 3:06 pm

With liquor now available in Washington in most every supermarket, drugstore and discount store in the state, sales rose 15.4 percent in July compared with the same month in 2011, today reported the Washington State Department of Revenue.

That volume increase came despite prices that averaged 16.2 percent higher than last year when liquor sales were limited to state-owned and licensed stores.

The sales increase followed June sales that dropped by 9.4 percent after a rise of more than 26 percent in May, the last month the state sold liquor from its own stores. State officials attribute that rise and subsequent fall to consumers hoarding liquor in May anticipating rising prices.

Sales returned to a more normal, though elevated pace in July.

A total of 10.6 million liters of spirits were purchased during May, June and July of 2012, compared with 9.5 million liters for the same period in 2011. Sales hit $164.8 million compared to $138.9 million a year earlier, the state said.

One bit of good news for the state was that liquor tax revenues rose as a result of higher sales. Tax revenue was up 15 percent to $68 million during the three-month period in 2012.

State votes last November approved Initiative 1183 ending the state’s monopoly on hard liquor sales. The state opened up liquor sales to merchants June 1. The state sold its own stores to private bidders who paid more than $32 million to operate the former state stores in their old locations or in others nearby.

The liquor initiative also attracted mass market spirits retailers such as BevMo and Total Wine and More to the state for the first time.

Spirits sales to restaurants and bars was off 4.2 percent in July, the state said. Restaurants and bars had stocked up during May buying 46 percent more liquor then than the prior May.

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