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Bourbon, Tequila, Cigars Driving Sales At Kentucky “Megastore” The Party Source

November 18, 2022

Adjacent to New Riff Distilling in Bellevue, Kentucky sits The Party Source. Originally opened by New Riff founder Ken Lewis, The Party Source has been owned by employees since 2014 through an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP. Since transitioning to that model, the store has undergone a number of changes; this year, further expansion to the store’s “campus” is underway with the renovation of a formerly defunct bar behind the beverage alcohol megastore. Leading the company into the future is president and CEO Jon Stiles, who was recently named a Market Watch Leader.

The Party Source generated revenue of $56.5 million in 2021, the strongest year on record for the store. Stiles says thus far 2022 numbers are slightly below last year’s peak, which he says is not surprising given the return of on-premise consumption. “No one likes to see a reduction in their sales,” says Stiles. “But when this year is finished, it’s going to finish probably a little bit below 2021 but it’s going to be above 2020. It’s still going to be a great year.”

That $56.5 million in revenue is generated in a single store that measures about 60,000 square feet of selling space. Upstairs is a storage facility that includes a 12,000-square-foot, temperature-controlled wine storage unit. The massive storage area and selling floor has allowed The Party Source to live up to its “Everything But The Guests” tagline. “We’re the largest store in the state of Kentucky, and probably the largest in the states of Ohio and Indiana too,” Stiles says. “We have larger selections in almost every category than any other competitor. And we combine that with deep inventory.”

Currently, The Party Source carries about 7,000 spirits SKUs, including spirits-based ready-to-drink products. Wine SKUs equal roughly 5,500 and beer and hard seltzer SKUs amount to nearly 1,900. The store also carries about 1,700 cigar SKUs.

Stiles and his colleagues say Bourbon and ultra-premium and luxury Tequilas are thriving, as are spirits-based RTDs. The Party Source’s constant struggle with Bourbon is getting enough supply to satisfy demand, and Tequila’s momentum is outstripping supply as well. “We really can’t get enough Don Julio, Patrón, Casamigos, and Teremana, and all these other great brands,” Stiles says. “So far, even with inflation being what it is—and we certainly have seen our share of price increases—the push for premium is still staggering.” Spirits RTDs are another strong growth area. “It’s gotten to the point where almost a third of the cases that our buyer orders are RTDs in single serving cans,” he says.

Cigars are also an important part of the mix at The Party Source. “We’re told that we’re the largest single-location cigar retailer in the United States,” says Stiles. “We do more than $4 million a year in our humidor, and that amounts to about 8% of total sales.” Market Watch has more.—Carol Ward

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