Alcohol sales uptick indicative of economic recovery

Posted at 6:28 PM, Feb 01, 2012
and last updated 2012-02-02 07:35:59-05
RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Can the health of the economy be judged based on whiskey, gin and vodka sales?

Liquor sales in the United States rose nearly three percent last year, and some say that’s a measure of a recession fading.

There's certainly no shortage of bar-goers at Station 2 Bar and Grill, even on a weeknight.

"The sales have been good,” said Station 2's owner, Jeb White, who noted seeing a steady increase in alcohol sales.

This isn't just happening at Station 2, either.  According to the distilled spirits council of the U.S., it’s happening nationally; alcohol sales increased by 2.7 percent in 2011.

That's the strongest increase in five years and some analysts believe it's a sign the economy is slowly recovering.

“We're not out of the recession or crisis, but, incomes are starting to edge up a little bit,” said Dr. Dave Bratt, an economist.

Dr.  Bratt said even though the unemployment rate is still high, those who are employed are earning more.

Bratt said confidence in the economy is increasing and earners are much more willing to spend on small luxuries, rather than big-ticket items like a family vacation.

“It's a nice smaller-ticket item people can enjoy without busting the bank account,” said Bratt.

More proof of a slow economic recovery is the type of alcohol people are buying. The distilled spirits council reports that sales of high-end alcohol increased by 5.3 percent in 2011.

Before the financial crisis, these brands increased by an average of 5.8 percent every year.

White said he has noticed customers aiming at top shelf brands, which tend to be higher in price.

“The products that we are selling are high quality and thus, deserve a higher price and people are willing to pay it,” said White.