State liquor board experimenting with seasonal gift stores in area malls
The state liquor board thinks it may raise nearly $4 million by selling holiday-related spirits, wine and gifts at local malls.
Seattle Times business reporter
If seasonal calendar shops are too quaint for your holiday shopping taste, perhaps the state has something for you: holiday liquor shops in malls.
From Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, the State Liquor Control Board plans to sell a small selection of spirits, wine and liquor-related gifts at temporary liquor stores in Pacific Place, Alderwood mall, The Commons at Federal Way and Bellis Fair Mall in Bellingham.
The state is considering two additional locations, and if sales are strong this year, it might open as many as eight holiday shops next year. The stores are projected to post sales of $3.8 million over two years, according to liquor-board spokesman Brian Smith.
"It's an opportunity to help contribute money to the state's budget deficit and provide, in a tasteful way, the type of products our over-21 population might be looking for as gifts," Smith said.
The mall shops will be warmer than the tile-floor, fluorescent-lit look associated with the state's existing 160 liquor shops. (An additional 154 stores are privately run by owners under contract with the state.)
At Pacific Place in downtown Seattle, a player piano has already arrived in the third-floor space vacated this summer by women's clothing retailer J. Jill.
"There will be a small living-room feature with oversized, stuffed leather chairs and a bookcase filled with books on related subjects," said Pacific Place general manager Lynn Beck.
"We're excited, because we have a wine store and wine bar called Sixth Avenue Wine Seller that's locally owned and operated, and we see this as an opportunity to create additional awareness for them," she said.
The owner of Sixth Avenue Wine Seller, Bev Shimada, said she hopes that's the case but is worried that it will mean more competition during a crucial time of year.
"It's a two-month thing — that's when we do most of our business," said Shimada, whose shop has been at Pacific Place for more than six years.
The liquor shops will carry about one-tenth of the items found in a typical state store, and fewer than 30 wines. They will sell popular holiday spirits, like Bailey's Irish Cream, and have special sections devoted to Pacific Northwest distilleries.
Gift items will include spirit-based chocolates and liquor bottles combined in gift sets with drinking glasses, flasks and shakers.
The shops will be staffed mostly by experienced workers from existing state stores. Statewide, the liquor board expects to hire 30 to 35 seasonal workers, Smith said. It already has about 12 seasonal workers at its distribution center south of downtown Seattle.
Leasing costs for the holiday shops will be under $100,000 for six stores this year.
Jerry Alder, general manager of Alderwood mall, said the stores will be a relief for customers like him, who shop for liquor only as holiday gifts and will not have to search for the nearest state store.
At Alderwood, the 820-square-foot liquor shop will be next to Godiva Chocolatier.
The state liquor board is "stepping outside the box for what we all think of as an agency that basically has a monopoly and wouldn't have to do something like this," he said. "I'm encouraged and a little surprised and happy about it."
Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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