What is Renton drinking for the holidays?

The biggest seller

So what is Renton drinking this holiday season?

The answer to that question comes in some big numbers – and they’re only based on the first nine months of the year, well before the peak of the season to make merry.

It seems we owe a lot to the Canadians, who dominate the sales of whiskey in the United States. That dominance is reflected in the Top 10 products sold at the three liquor stores in Renton.

Take the nearly 29,000 of those little bottles of Yukon Jack, a Canadian whiskey liqueur, that flew out the doors of Renton’s liquor stores from January through September.

Why is it so popular?

“It’s 100 proof and it’s inexpensive,” said Steve Burnell, marketing manager in the purchasing division of the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

A 50-milliliter bottle of Yukon Jack sells for $1.50. It comes with a real macho image, at least according to the advertising. By the way, it’s honey-based.

In sheer volume of spirits, nothing beats that top-shelf blended Canadian whiskey, Crown Royal. Through September, the state sold 3,746 gallons of Crown Royal in Renton, enough to fill about half a tank truck. Want to fill up the rest of that tanker? Just add in the 2,331 gallons of Hennessy cognac and 1,274 gallons of Jagermeister, a German herbal liqueur, sold in Renton through September.

Hennessy sales get a shot in the arm whenever the cognac gets a mention in a song lyric or in a movie.

There are other superlatives.

Renton is home to a liquor store that routinely ends the year as the No. 1 or No. 2 busiest store in the state in terms of retail sales. The downtown store at the Renton Shopping Center is on track to hit sales of about $10 million in 2008, which includes retail sales and sales to restaurants and bars.

“That’s a very large store,” said Burnell.

Population density plays a role in the sales figures at the store, according to Burnell, and the state usually sees

strong sales at stores in shopping centers.

The Renton store trades top billing with the University Village store, not far from the University of Washington campus in Seattle.

And, through September, the downtown store’s sales are about double the combined totals of the other two liquor stores in the Renton area, in Fairwood and in the Highlands.

On Wednesday, the store received its weekly shipment of liquor and wine from the warehouse in Seattle – nearly 1,500 cases. Typically, it receives about 1,000 cases, but this is the holiday season.

Liquor sales are regulated by the Washington State Liquor Control Board. In 2007, sales of liquor and wine totaled $651 million statewide.

Like others retailers, the state sees its sales grow throughout the year, leading to the holiday season and the festive parties that go with it.

There are spikes in liquor sales throughout the year, usually when a toast is called for or it’s time to have some fun (at an adult party).

Tequila sales jump in May, around Cinco de Mayo, an important celebration around the world of Mexican heritage and pride.

The biggest spike comes in August, the height of summer, but nowhere near the huge December sales. In 2007, state sales in December jumped $20 million over the previous month.

Then liquor sales plunge in January, in part because beer is king for the finale of the football season. State stores have a minimal beer selection, Burnell said.

“Beer does a great job during football season,” he said.

Liquor and wine sales are even holding up in the downturn in the economy.

It seems that spirits are recession-proof. And shoppers are still reaching up to the top shelf for the best stuff.

“We are tracking slightly below from last year but not very much,” Burnell said.


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