Many people are buying the same amount but choosing cheaper brands.
As the economy weakens, many liquor companies say their sales remain the same, but drinkers are choosing cheaper brands. They say sales of the most expensive brands have dropped, but many report an increase in sales of each brand's cheaper counterpart.
"Value brands are continuing to sell. They're actually selling higher than usual," says one industry analyst. "People are switching from brands that might cost $80 per bottle back to brands that might cost $40 per bottle."
While sales remain strong, distillers say that cheaper brands carry a smaller profit margin. Retailers say their customers are becoming pickier.
"There's a common myth that our business is counter-cyclical, that people drink more when they're depressed," says John Rydman, the co-owner of Spec's Liquor Stores. "We don't believe that, and we don't see it."
Rydman says he sees more individual customers because more people are drinking at home instead of at restaurants and bars.
"Most of the places are down, especially those that are used to expense account money," he adds.
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