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Washington buyers boost Idaho liquor sales by $10M

The head of Idaho’s liquor division says state liquor stores had an estimated $10 million in additional sales – 6 percent of their total – from Washington customers in 2013.

Jeff Anderson told lawmakers Jan. 31 that the bump is a result of Washington state’s move to privatized liquor sales in June of 2012. He said the changeover bumped up prices enough that more customers crossed the state line to Idaho to make their purchases.

“It’s not so much that we’ve sold a lot more volume,” Jeff Anderson told members of the Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriation Committee, The Spokesman-Review reported.

Rather, the increase came from sales of higher-priced premium liquor products.

Idaho already had a price advantage over Washington in lower-tier products, Anderson said, but previously, the difference was just a dollar or so, not enough to get a customer to make a trip across state lines.

Now, with Washington’s new tax structure and fees on liquor, “It could be as high as $70 or more out the door,” he said. That’s enough to bring buyers across the Idaho line.

“There are instances where they have lower prices than us on certain items,” Anderson said, but overall, “We still retain a pretty significant price advantage.”

Idaho’s liquor division is projecting $170.4 million in sales this year, up from $164.5 million in 2013. Sales have been rising for years – in 2005 sales were about $95 million – but Anderson said Idahoan’s per capita consumption of distilled spirits remains well below the national average.

The growth over time has been fueled by population increases and a trend that is occurring nationally, Anderson said, with more consumers moving from beer and wine to distilled spirits.

Producers are responding to the trend by creating more types of liquor products.

“Product innovation is one of the reasons why we’ve been challenges at retail,” Anderson said. “If we get 500 new products proposed and we accept 150 of them, that’s 150 products on the shelf that we have to find room for.”

The division is proposing remodels or moves of seven state liquor stores next year, including stores in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint.

About The Associated Press