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Lee’s Discount Liquor Projects $85 Million In Sales For 2015 As Good Times Return To Vegas

July 7, 2015

Las Vegas-based Lee’s Discount Liquor has had two consecutive years of double-digit growth as both the city and the 17-location chain continue to see a rebound after the recent recession. Company president Kenny Lee says revenues are expected to top the chain’s previous record of $85 million this year, with two more stores in its stable compared to pre-recession levels. Shanken News Daily spoke with Kenny Lee about the return of higher spending and the latest beverage alcohol trends in his Sin City hometown.

SND: Your stores are typically large-format venues, with a “stock it high and sell it cheap” philosophy. How is that resonating with today’s consumer in Las Vegas?

Lee: Our stores range anywhere from about 5,000 square feet, all the way up to 31,000 square feet. We average about 16,000 square feet. I definitely believe in the discount volume business. It’s selection, price and service—that’s what my father (company founder Hae Un Lee) always preaches. Our pricing is all the same from large to small stores. Even our smallest stores carry about 90% of the items that the big stores carry, even if it’s just one facing.

SND: Las Vegas is revitalizing after taking a big hit during the recession. Is that happening for Lee’s Discount Liquor as well?

Lee: The economy is coming back in Vegas. Everybody is building, so the construction jobs are returning. We certainly took a hit in the recession. Starting in 2008 or 2009, our transactions stayed the same but our average ring went down by about $4. At our peak, revenues were at $85 million, and we never had a down year until 2009, when we dropped to about $70 million. This year we’ll definitely hit $85 million. We’ve seen double-digit growth in the last two years.

SND: What’s resonating with your customers right now?

Lee: Brown goods are so hot right now. I remember the days when, if a buyer ordered a full case of Pappy (Van Winkle)—and that’s a six-bottle case—I’d get mad, asking them, what are you doing buying a full case of that stuff that doesn’t sell? Now I can’t get enough of it. And it’s not just that. There are all sorts of other high-end Bourbons, and they don’t have to be recognizable names. Suppliers are being very creative, saying we “found” this barrel or whatever, and people are buying them up.

SND: What wine trends are you seeing?

Lee: I thought the Moscato craze would die down by now, but Stella Rosa ($9.99) is just an amazing brand. And all the sweet red wines are selling like you would not believe.

SND: Has Las Vegas jumped on the local and craft beer craze?

Lee: There are local brands, but none have the following that beers from other cities do. I sell a ton of Sam Adams and a few other craft brands that have been around for a long time. And we sell a lot of Pabst, Coors and Budweiser. There are all these really popular craft beers, and distributors bring them here, but they haven’t sold the way (the distributors) thought they would.

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