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Liquor Stores N.A. Looks To Expand Its U.S. Presence

December 11, 2014

With two new stores planned for Kentucky, Canadian-based Liquor Stores N.A., Ltd. is positioning itself for further expansion in the U.S. market. The company—which bills itself as the largest publicly traded liquor retailer in North America—already operates 36 stores in Kentucky and Alaska, and is considering expansion into other markets.

“The U.S. has been identified as our largest growth market so we’re very focused on that,” Stephen Bebis, president and CEO, recently told Shanken News Daily.

In addition to the planned openings of two Liquor Barn stores in Louisville in 2015, the Edmonton, Alberta-based company is looking to grow its footprint elsewhere in the United States. “We’ve cast a wide net, and we’re now narrowing it down,” Bebis added.

Liquor Stores N.A. currently operates 13 Liquor Barn “The Ultimate Party Source” and Liquor Barn Express stores in the Bluegrass State and 23 Brown Jug locations in Alaska. The company reported total sales of $661 million in 2013, with U.S. sales contributing $157.5 million. For the nine months ended September 30, total sales increased to $497 million from $477 million, with same-store sales in the U.S. up 0.3% during the period. The company noted that while sales in its Kentucky stores increased, it continues to be impacted by the state’s changing wet/dry laws. Same-store sales in Alaska, meanwhile, are down year to date, Liquor Stores N.A. said, due to a “more competitive market in the state.”

The retailer is in the midst of a major initiative to improve operations and grow sales in both Canada and the U.S. Its management team was enhanced earlier this year with the appointment of Jason Fremstad, former director of wine and spirits at Walmart, as senior vice president, general merchandise management, and Steve Rop, former director of global supply chain for Total Wine & More, as senior vice president, supply chain, logistics and planning. Bebis, who previously served as president and CEO of specialty retailer Brookstone Inc., joined the company in 2013.

According to Bebis, Liquor Stores N.A. sees the best opportunity for new superstores in the U.S., and has identified its Canadian Wine and Beyond concept as a prototype. Last year, the company unveiled the 14,000-square-foot Brown Jug Friendly Spirits in Fairbanks, Alaska, modeled after Wine and Beyond, and the two stores planned for Louisville are 20,000 square feet in size. “They go deep in wine, carrying 6,000 to 8,000 wines, depending on the market, as well as an extensive selection of spirits from all over the world and an unparalleled selection of craft beers,” Bebis says. “We think the superstores will do very well in the United States.”


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