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Interview: Fred Leighton and Pat McCarthy of Bayway World of Liquor

December 15, 2017

Elizabeth, New Jersey’s Bayway World of Liquor is one of the state’s major spirits retailers, with annual sales revenue of between $25 and $30 million, half of which is derived from spirits, followed by wine at 20% of total sales.SND contributing editor Terri Allan recently spoke with the store’s owner Fred Leighton and whisk(e)y ambassador Patrick McCarthy about the continued opportunity for spirits at the New Jersey store.

SND: Bayway has earned a reputation for its whisk(e)y selection. What categories and brands are performing best, and what are you anticipating for 2018?

McCarthy: Bourbon and Tequila, particularly high-end Tequilas, are red hot. Four Roses Bourbon, Wild Turkey—driven by its big advertising push—and Johnnie Walker are all performing very well right now. We also do a lot of private-barrel whisk(e)y, brandy and Tequila picks, some of which are marketed under our 13-year-old “Whisky Peddler” program. These barrel picks have gone a long way in building customer loyalty.

SND: Do you see anything interesting going on in blended Scotch, or is it mainly single malt nowadays?

Leighton: The Johnnie Walker line is doing well; its advertising gives it a great image. Dewar’s and Grant’s also do well, but some other old-time blends are struggling.

SND: What’s performing best among craft spirits for you? Is craft taking away from the national brands at all?

Leighton: While I can’t point to any specific data, it’s a zero-sum game, so national brands would have to be impacted by crafts. We’re finding that some customers won’t buy the same bottle of whisk(e)y twice. They’re on a journey to explore.

SND: How’s your e-commerce business?

Leighton: At one point, our online sales were quite healthy, but due to the changes to the FedEx and UPS structures, it went poof. New York was our biggest online market, but we can no longer ship there. We’re now down to just a dozen states to which we can legally ship.

SND: The New Jersey retail landscape seems quite healthy right now. Are there any issues on the horizon that concern you?

Leighton: I’m chairman of the state liquor store association, and I think it’s important to maintain a stable and fair marketplace. I’m concerned with any possible changes to the current licensee limitations, which would allow non-traditional liquor retailers to participate more widely. It’s currently a stable, socially responsible market. Expanded licensing is not a convenience issue in such a densely populated state like New Jersey as it is in other markets.

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