Holidays are a boon for grocery store liquor departments

Piggly Wiggle stores in Port, Saukville see a 20% spike in beer, wine and spirit sales this time of year, but without the Packers in the playoffs, January outlook is not as bright

CRAFT BEER, like the case of Upland Brewing Co.’s Side Trail held by Johnnie Dinkins, manager of the Fox Bros. Piggly Wiggly store in Saukville, is one of the biggest sellers at the grocery store chain’s Saukville and Port locations. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Holiday spirits are in high demand at Fox Brothers Piggly Wiggly stores in Port Washington and Saukville as customers prepare for seasonal festivities.

David Dickelman, director of marketing and merchandising, said stores will see a 20% bump in alcohol sales from Thanksgiving through New Year’s.

“It’s a significant increase. We haven’t even hit the heaviest period yet,” he said.

Liquor sales account for about 12% of sales at seven of the eight Piggly Wiggly stores operated by Fox Brothers. Its Hartford location doesn’t sell alcohol because of a city ordinance.

Dickelman said Fox Brothers’ Saukville store has the third-largest liquor department in the chain. Saukville Store Director Johnnie Dinkins said he has seen a steady increase in alcohol sales, especially craft beer.   

“Even with Port Washington opening this summer, we haven’t lost much in terms of liquor sales in Saukville,” Dinkins said.

Craft beer sales are increasing at the Port Washington and Saukville stores, while they have been flat in other markets.

“Trends are showing that the sales of craft beer are becoming more stagnant, but we’re showing about a 9% increase,” Dickelman said. “Variety packs of craft beer always do well because people are stocking up for their holiday parties.”

Dickelman said that while beer and wine sales are steady before the holidays, he expects sales to plateau in January because the Green Bay Packers won’t be playing in the postseason.     

“It’s always a good time for beer and wine, but it’s even better when the Packers are viable,” he said. “With the Packers not being in the playoffs, it takes a lot away from beverage and deli sales. The interest level will not be as high this year.”

To counteract competition, Dickelman said, Fox Brothers stores sell alcohol at the lowest legal price, as the state requires a 6% markup.

“It’s one area where we really focus on getting right on the price and being aggressive to offer the best deals,” Dickelman said.

Another trend in the industry is the growing popularity of fermented malt beverages like hard ciders and seltzers.

This year, hard seltzers have seen about a 25% increase in sales, after a 40% spike last year, he said.

“Hard seltzers were definitely geared more towards women, but now you see a lot more men drinking them too,” Dickelman said

Kegs of beer were once a necessity for holiday get-togethers, but Dickelman said they are on the decline.

“There’s such a wide variety now, and people are drinking a lot more harder stuff,” he said. “Especially the younger generation, because they’re not really drinking beer anymore.”

One type of beverage that is in demand for Christmas and New Year’s is champagne and sparkling wine.

“In December, we always feature a highly rated sparkling wine, and it’s always one of our best sales of the year,” Dickelman said.

Dickelman said Piggly Wiggly stores don’t overstock alcohol during the holidays but make decisions based on previous sales and current costs.

“We have to see what a store is going to go through in an appropriate amount of time,” he said. “We’re a small chain. We’re not one of the behemoths out there, so we have to be very aggressive on our buys.

“We want to have the most competitive prices in order for us to match up with other stores.”




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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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