Iowa sees liquor sales increase

Matt Kuhns

Business has been brisk for Ames liquor stores lately, reflective of a statewide increase in liquor sales for the second year in a row.

“It’s been a pretty good year,” said Mark McCann, assistant store manager of Cub Foods, 3121 Grand Ave.

Jack Nystrom, administrator of the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, said sales of liquor in Iowa rose by 3.5 percent during the last fiscal year, and profits from liquor sales rose 1.5 percent.

“That’s relatively significant,” Nystrom said, adding that this increase followed an even larger one the year before.

Nystrom said the overall increase has been coupled with an increase in the quality of liquor Iowans are purchasing.

The most dramatic growth has been in the sale of “whites,” such as vodkas, gins and rums, Nystrom said.

Distilled spirits and wine typically are bought by people 35 or older, he said, whereas beer, which has seen relatively flat sales, is primarily purchased by younger people.

Liquor sales “seem to have gone up in the eastern part of the state” more than central or western Iowa, Nystrom said, probably due to riverboat gambling.

He said spirits are generally the most popular drink with people playing table games.

Although the overall trend is increased sales of whites, the current top-selling brand is an exception.

“Our No. 1 seller is Black Velvet,” Nystrom said.

Vodkas, rums and whiskeys have been among the bigger sellers at Cub Foods, McCann said.

He said good economic times and low unemployment rates are one reason for the increase in liquor sales.

Nystrom agreed, saying the increase in the sale of alcoholic beverages, particularly of quality liquors, most likely is a result of a strong economy.

“The economy is good; there’s a little more disposable income” available for purchases, he said.

At Cyclone Liquors, 626 Lincoln Way, sales have been up by about 5 percent in the last year, said store owner Dennis Gano.

Sales of specific types of beverages fluctuate depending on the season and whether classes are in session, Gano said.

“Vodkas are always popular,” he said. “In the summertime, gins are very popular.”

Gano said there has been a somewhat greater increase in demand for the high-end vodkas and scotches, but “generally they’re all up a little bit.”