Beer, Wine, Liquor Sales Up Around the Holidays, Imagine That!

Holidays bring glad tidings for stores specializing in beer, wine, liquor

Area dealers are ready for the rush

Alex Jensen of Cedar Rapids shops for beer for an office holiday gift exchange at Benz Beverage Depot in downtown Cedar Rapids.

It’s almost New Year’s Eve, and the stores that sell beer and wine are doing fine, thank you.

Global information and measurement company, Nielsen Holdings, recently conducted a survey in which participating households were queried about their spending expectations for the upcoming holiday season in industry sectors that included food, beverages and alcohol.

The results predicted an upswing of six percent in dollar and unit growth for wine purchases, followed closely by anticipated gains of three percent for liquor and beer purchases.

And wine and liquor dealers are ready.

Benz Beverage Depot General Manager Matt Hanlin said his store has been busy with holiday buyers and estimates that for November the store realized somewhere between a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in sales.

“That’s just a rough estimate,” he noted, but said the wholesale business becomes extremely busy as New Year’s Eve draws closer.

“We will be open the day leading up to New Year’s Eve and the store gets real busy at the beginning of the day up until 3 or 4 o’clock, and then as the bars need to stock up, our wholesale part of the business turns extremely busy heading toward the evening,” he said.

Hanlin said that their distributor response is so quick that they don’t need to order extra “crazy amounts.”

“We always keep such a large inventory in stock as is.

“We do order accessories, gifts and foodstuffs earlier in the season,” he added, “like late October or early November to kind of get stocked up in those things, however.”

“We don’t have any one item that sells head and shoulders above anything else,” he said, adding that, “obviously we will sell more Champagne on New Year’s Eve, of course, but we sell a little bit of everything in this store instead of a lot of one thing.”

In addition to their extensive wine, liquor and beer offerings, Benz also sells gourmet deli meats and cheeses as well as pastas, sauces, relishes and jams.

And, no, the store doesn’t jack up prices for New Year’s Eve, he said.

“If we get some customers in the store who don’t typically come in and they find high prices, that isn’t going to do our business much good,” he figures.


“The holiday season leading up to New Year’s Eve is our busiest time,” said Traci Weber, who co-owns 1st Avenue Wine House with her husband, Ron. Their business features California wines in addition to a gift basket business — Taylor Made Gift Solutions — run from their shop by Traci’s mother, Carolyn Taylor.

“We will see an increase in sales predominantly for champagnes and sparkling wines this holiday season,” she noted, saying they will put in an extra supply of those products. She added, though, that “Our reps are right here with us all the time. We are getting inventory every week, so we are always stocked and ready.

“When we opened our business we wanted to store one product and we wanted to sell it well. Wine is our passion. We stay out of the beer and liquor part of the business and let our competitors handle that.”

Contrary to some industries that try to capitalize on the increased consumer demand in December, Weber said they’ve never raised prices on their merchandise for the holidays.

“In fact, if anything, many of our items get dropped in price because oftentimes leading up to the holidays our distributors will offer us lower rates on bulk buys,” she explained. “If I buy a certain quantity then I get a price break, … I turn around and pass on (it) to my customers.”

Weber addressed her concerns about public assumptions of small-store price points.

“I think a lot of misconceptions people have about locally-owned businesses such as ours is that they can only afford to come in here on special occasions like the holidays because our prices are higher than the big box stores or grocery stores, and that simply is not the case.

“We are a shop for all seasons,” she added, “not just the holidays.”


General manager Matt Hanlin prepares a gift basket of wine and snacks for a customer at Benz Beverage Depot in downtown Cedar Rapids.

“You cannot wait until later to get ready,” noted Vineria Wine Shop owner Jose Reyes. “You have to start earlier. We have to display things such as the gift boxes that we promote in our store.”

Vineria’s specializes in wines from Spain, Italy and France, in addition to imported cheeses and other food stuff products they incorporate into their gift boxes.

“We can help you make a box that will fit your budget,” he explained, adding that they help customers create custom gift boxes versus paying a lot of money for predesigned boxes that contain things that might not like.

The shop carries a variety of beers — “Those that get the highest ratings are the ones we like to promote,” he said.

Reyes’s philosophy follows Weber’s: “I don’t increase my pricing. We work with low margins,” he said. “I try to promote more and I try to sell more so I can get people to try our wines and keep coming back.”(The Gazette)

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