Since Washington state privatized liquor sales last June 1, large national chains have dominated sales in Spokane County, a Journal of Business analysis of Liquor Control Board sales data shows.
Of the top 10 sellers in Spokane County, nine are large chain stores. The only exception is Greenacres Liquor Store & Specialty Items, which ranked ninth in sales among county licensees in terms of net sales reported to the state liquor agency during the third and fourth quarters of 2012.
The two Costco Wholesale Corp. stores in the county topped the list, with the store located at 5601 E. Sprague in Spokane Valley reporting the most sales during the six-month period. At $1.24 million in reported sales, the Valley store ranked 16th out of all liquor retailers statewide.
The North Side Costco, located at 7619 N. Division, came in second countywide with $1.04 million in liquor sales during the two quarters. Statewide, it ranked 25th in reported liquor sales, data show.
While Costco topped the list, Potomac, Md.-based Total Wine & More Inc. appears poised to compete for the top spot. The company opened a store at 9980 N. Newport Highway, on Spokane's North Side, in early November and reported about $880,000 in net sales for the last two months of the year, ranking third in the county and 34th in the state.
Edward Cooper, Total Wine's vice president of public affairs, says, "We've been very pleased with our results in Spokane. We knew it was a terrific market for us."
Cooper says the company plans to add a second store in the Spokane area and is currently negotiating on a location in Spokane Valley. He declines to disclose further details, but says that store could open in the fourth quarter of this year.
The trend in Spokane County mirrors the trend statewide, according to a similar analysis conducted by the Puget Sound Business Journal. The PSBJ reported late last month that nine Costco stores ranked among the top 10 liquor sellers in the Puget Sound area during the six-month period, and the Issaquah, Wash.-based big-box retailer's stores held 16 of the top 20 statewide in terms of net sales.
While Costco dominated the list of West Side top sellers, however, the PSBJ reported that a Total Wine & More outlet ranked tops in the state.
As has been reported previously, Costco was the top financial supporter of Initiative 1183, which voters approved during the November 2011 general election, clearing the way for private companies to sell liquor starting last June. Costco reportedly spent $22 million to help pass I-1183, which was a state record for initiative-related financial support.
Prior to I-1183's approval, the state operated or contracted for the operation of all liquor retail stores in Washington.
Keith Peterson, owner of Greenacres Liquor Store, at 18309 E. Appleway in Spokane Valley, says he has owned that store for 26 years and had contracted with the state to operate it before privatization. While that store ranked ninth in Spokane County (163rd statewide) with almost $500,000 in net sales during the sixth-month period, he says sales at his store actually have declined substantially since privatization, largely because of new taxes that make it harder to compete with distributors to supply restaurants with hard alcohol.
Peterson says the store's sales were $3 million to $3.5 million a year before privatization, and the store was consistently the top-selling contract store in Eastern Washington and typically ranked third statewide.
While sales at his store have dropped due to a loss of restaurant customers, he says it has maintained a strong consumer base.
"We have personable service, and we carry a lot of things others don't have," he says.
Other retailers in the top 10 in terms of Spokane County liquor sales during the second half of last year included: Fred Meyer, at 400 S. Thor, with $650,000 in sales (fourth in county, 62nd statewide); Walmart, at 9212 N. Colton, $620,000 (fifth, 80th); Safeway, at 2507 W. Wellesley, $559,000 (sixth, 125th); Walmart, at 15727 E. Broadway, $525,000 (seventh, 141st); Walmart, at 1221 S. Hayford, $522,000 (eighth, 146th); and Safeway, at 933 E. Mission, $463,000 (10th, 187th).
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