Bigger players enter area spirits market
The mix of retail competitors in the newly privatized liquor business in Washington acquired two major new players last week with the soft opening of Tacoma’s first liquor superstore near the Tacoma Mall and the grand opening of another spirits emporium in Bellevue.
California-based BevMo plans its formal grand opening of its Tacoma store July 13, but the cash registers were ringing for the first time Thursday in the former video store location on South 37th Street across the street from Costco.
BevMo wasn’t the only new player to enter the retail spirits competition last week. Maryland-based Total Wine & More held a its first Washington grand opening Thursday at its new store in Bellevue.
For the buyers of the state’s network of 167 liquor stores, for grocers, drugstore chains and discounters such as Costco, Target and Walmart who have enjoyed the market to themselves here for a month, BevMo and Total Wine & More bring another level of competition to the state.
So where does a 10,000-square-foot-plus BevMo store fit in the competitive landscape?
Alan Johnson, the 117-store chain’s chief executive officer, said the liquor, wine and beer retailer will offer the widest selection – some 8,000 items versus the average supermarket’s several hundred liquor items – and the best expertise.
“We don’t sell baby food or breakfast cereal, so all of our knowledge is focused on the products we sell,” he said. “I think customers will find our stores a different experience than what they find in the grocery stores or in the smaller stores,” he said.
Of the two dozen employees that BevMo hired to operate the Tacoma store, said Johnson, about 40 percent once worked for the chain in other states. BevMo operates in California and Nevada. They bring with them a deep knowledge of the merchandise and of BevMo, he said.
They know the new products on the market as well as the old familiars, he said. “If you want to know what goes with Indian curry,” he said, “they’ll have some informed suggestions.”
Unlike its across-the-street competitor Costco, BevMo sells its products in small and large sizes and it offers a variety of brands. “I look at Costco as the Model T of the spirits sales business,” said Johnson. “They’ll have whatever color you want as long as it’s black.”
BevMo will open its second store in Silverdale soon with four or five more due to open in Washington before Thanksgiving, he said.
The chain is known in other states as an aggressive promoter that uses product specials and its frequent customer club to introduce new items and offer discounts.