Sales off for alcohol vendors | SteamboatToday.com

Sales off for alcohol vendors

Economic dip isn't drowning sellers, but they are feeling a pinch

Blythe Terrell

Alcohol sales have been slightly slower in Steamboat Springs, though sellers say they aren’t taking as hard a hit as other retail sectors.

Alcohol purveyors are somewhat insulated from economic downturns, said Kevin Kaminski, who owns B&K Distributing. Still, he said, business isn’t booming.

“We’re down 13 percent going into what looks to be a pretty slow ski season,” Kaminski said.

According to Steamboat’s September 2008 sales, use and accommodation tax report, liquor stores were down 3.92 percent compared with September 2007. They brought in $45,489 in sales tax, compared with $47,345 in 2007.

For the same month, miscellaneous retail was down 0.6 percent, lodging was down 13.57 percent, and sporting goods were down 32.54 percent.

Almost every sector saw an increase over 2007 numbers in August. Liquor stores were up 4.86 percent.

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“I wish I could say it was on fire, but it’s not,” Kaminski said. B&K supplies beer to the area’s retailers, restaurants and bars.

Greg Stetman, who owns Central Park Liquors, said his store was doing well but that he was concerned about December through March.

“A significant portion of our sales come from the tourist business, and the numbers we’re hearing is : the advance condominium bookings are down 30 to 40 percent,” Stetman said. “Unfortunately, (Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.) refuses to announce the exact number of bookings from Central Res, and that would be very helpful for businesses like ours, to make sure we staff our store according to what business is going to be.”

Ski Corp. officials have said bookings are off less than 30 percent but have not released numbers.

“It’s very discouraging because we potentially could be hiring people we have to let go in December because the sales aren’t there, and they’ll have no chance of getting another job,” Stetman said. “To whose benefit is that?”

Central Park still is planning its annual locals sale next weekend.

“It’s a very large sale,” Stetman said. “Most of Steamboat turns out for it, and it shouldn’t be affected, hopefully, by the economic climate because it’s an opportunity to save money.”

Retail sales across the state are solid, said Jeanne McEvoy, executive director of the

Colorado Licensed Beverage Association, a trade group. She attributed that to a change in people’s habits.

“I think what they’re doing is rather than go out to a restaurant and have what’s become a really expensive meal, they’ll grab an inexpensive bottle of wine and go home and have a nice meal,” McEvoy said.

Warm fall weather also has encouraged people to grill instead of going out to eat, she said, adding that people often supplement those meals with alcohol.

“They might be downsizing, buying one bottle instead of two, but they still like to have a beverage with their meal,” McEvoy said.

Tom Ihrig, owner of Steamboat Discount Liquor, said his sales were off for the year. He attributed that to new downtown liquor stores rather than the economy and said he’d seen less of a slowdown than expected.

Ihrig said his business catered to more locals than tourists. As a result, he noted, Steamboat Discount Liquor could be hurt if economic troubles hit his customers.

“The bigger picture for me is doing business with locals,” Ihrig said. “If their business is slow, it will affect my business.”

Kaminski said he was optimistic for the ski season.

“I think it’ll start rebounding now,” he said. “I think we’re going to get through this winter just fine as long as some white stuff comes – which it always does.”