December 18, 2008

The Moron Lifestyle Is Like A Cockroach

In that it can survive any disaster, even The Coming Age Of Plenty.

But all is not rosy. It appears as though more and more people may be encroaching into the world of Val-U-Rite.

Customer numbers at Colorado liquor stores aren't down and liquor excise taxes are up 7 percent this year, lending credence to the old saw that people continue to imbibe in tough times. But liquor store owners and liquor industry officials say drinkers are avoiding high- end spirits in favor of more moderately priced goods.

Or if they can't stand to give up their ultra anejo tequila and single-malt scotch, they may buy it in smaller quantities.

"I've never seen an environment like this," said Jim Smith, president of Republic National Distributing Co., who predicts that by the time the tinsel comes down, liquor retailers will have had a decent overall season.

But their revenues just might come more from $20 premium boxed wines. Sales of the penny-wise cartons have jumped 40 percent in the past month, according to a survey by A.E. Nielsen. Or from economy vodka, which the survey showed has jumped 7 percent while sales of luxury vodkas have declined.

"There are people out there that this downturn hasn't even bothered, but then there is the guy who would buy the $25 bottle of wine and is now buying the $10 bottle," said Daveco Liquors manager Ted Sutton.

No one has plunked down $13,000 for the store's priciest bottle of 55-year-old scotch. The last five-figure bottle of booze to sell there went out the door this summer before the economy really tanked.

Customer numbers are up at Argonaut Wine & Liquor, but co-owner Ron Vaughn said not as much high-end champagne as normal was carted away for Thanksgiving, and he doesn't expect Christmas to be any different.

"People are going quantity rather than quality," Vaughn said.

Jerry Sica, co-owner of Crossroads Wine & Liquors in Grand Junction, is using the belt-tightening as a way to highlight something he has always enjoyed doing.

"We see that people are downgrading their drinking habits, and we are turning them on to the better lower-cost brands," he said as he showed off an $18.99-per-half-gallon jug of Pinnacle vodka that he said stands up well to vodkas that cost five times as much.

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