Washington state liquor sales bounced back strongly in the second month of privatization, suggesting that residents were either adjusting to the new system or restocking.
Sales by volume increased 15.4 percent in July compared to a year earlier, according to new data released by the Washington State Department of Revenue. The jump came after a 9.4 percent year-over-year decrease in June, the first month of private liquor sales under Initiative 1183.
In May, a month prior to privatization, sales were up 26.6 percent as consumers, bars and restaurant owners stocked up with the expectation that prices would rise. Businesses in particular stockpiled liquor in May, with sales to that group up a whopping 46.7 percent compared to a year earlier.
Broken down into two groups, sales in July among consumers were up 21.1 percent, while sales to businesses were down 4.2 percent.
"The way I would interpret (these numbers) is that bars and restaurants hadn't worked through the inventory they stocked up on in May," said Mike Gowrylow, a spokesman for the Department of Revenue.
The price for spirits remained higher than it was under the state system, according to the agency's data. The average price paid for spirits was up 16.2 percent in July, compared to up 17.2 percent in June.
Tax revenue from liquor sales from May through July was up 15 percent compared to a year earlier, to $68 million. That's slightly higher than originally forecast, said Steve Lerch, interim director at the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. During that period 10.6 million liters were sold, up from 9.5 million liters during the three-month period in 2011.
Going forward, Lerch said it will continue to be difficult to forecast tax revenue from liquor sales because it's still a novelty to be in private stores, there are more outlets and different hours. In recent years liquor sales peaked in December, up more than 25 percent compared to the next-highest month.
"We're looking forward to a few more months of data (to better predict revenue sales)," Lerch said.
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at email@example.com or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/business or get updates on Twitter at twitter.com/BhamHeraldBiz.