home home About us home Newsroom home 2012 home Spirits sales bounce back in July, up for three-month period Spirits sales bounce back in July, up for three-month period

OLYMPIA – September 10, 2012 – Washingtonians purchased more hard liquor in July and over the past three months than they did a year ago, the Washington State Department of Revenue reported today.

Sales by volume increased 15.4 percent over year-earlier sales in July after declining 9.4 percent for June and rising 26.6 percent in May.  Liter sales were up 10.7 percent for the three-month period.

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

Sales were up in May, the last month the state liquor stores operated, as consumers and especially bars and restaurants stocked up prior to privatization of liquor sales beginning June 1.  They dropped in June, presumably because of the inventories built up in May, but recovered in July as consumers if not businesses consumed their stockpiles.

The following table indicates that restaurant and bar sales were still down in July because of the nearly 47 percent rise in purchases in May, but consumers purchased 21.1 percent more spirits in July after a 3 percent drop in June.

Percentage change liter sales in 2012 over 2011:

  May June July Three months
Retail (consumers) 19.6% -3.0% 21.1% 12.8%
Restaurants and bars 46.7% -27.4% -4.2% 4.4%
Total 26.6% -9.4% 15.4% 10.7%

The price paid for spirits continues to be higher than it was under the state system, although it moderated some in July.  The average price paid for spirits was up 16.2 percent in July compared to 17.2 percent in June.

Tax revenue was up 15 percent to $68 million during the three-month period in 2012. 

The stocking up of spirits in May, resulting decline in sales in June and then bounce back in July may suggest higher sales going forward, but it is too soon to tell what the ongoing change will be due to the privatization of spirit sales under Initiative 1183.  Spirits are more widely available under privatization, but prices are higher, and it’s possible the novelty of liquor in supermarkets may wear off and average prices may change, affecting sales.  More months of sales data will be needed to establish a trend.

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