Michigan, USA – "They were buying a $10 bottle. Now they're buying a $6 bottle," said Mike Acho, owner of the Wine Cellar party store in Waterford. "People don't have the money. They're not working, but they still want the alcohol, so they buy the cheaper stuff."
Chaldean business leaders within the Merchants of Michigan association say the state is heading towards the cliff’s edge. Michigan remains the worst state in country. It has the highest unemployment rate in the country, a continually slumping economy and one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation; experts say much of the increased drinking may be related to people trying to drown their sorrows.
State records agree with the opinion sharing that more customers are choosing to drink at home instead of bars and restaurants. Alcohol purchases nationwide have risen about 2%, total sales in Michigan have nearly doubled that, 3.5%, with residents of the Great Lakes State spending $895 million in 2007. The increase is in spite of a loss in the state's population of more than 46,000 people last year.
The state's Liquor Control Commission spokesman Ken Wozniak tells reporters that, “The 2008 numbers have not been compiled, but we can expect the increase to continue based on the data we're seeing so far."
The greatest increase in alcohol consumption in Michigan was in hard liquor, particularly vodka and whiskey, with residents purchasing -- and presumably consuming -- 282,270 more gallons than the year before.
Wine, too, is on the rise with an increase of 857,415 gallons purchased over the previous year. And people drank more mixed spirits, such as prepackaged rum drinks and wine coolers.
In contrast, beer consumption declined in keeping with a nationwide dip over the last several years that saw more drinkers gravitate toward trendy martini bars.
While beer still is the most popular alcoholic beverage -- Michiganders drank a whopping 204,239,944 gallons in 2007 -- it was a 1.8-million gallon decline over the year before, state officials said.
And people appear to be shopping for bargains when it comes to stocking their home bars, opting for American brands over more expensive imports.
Blended American whiskey sales, for instance, increased -- though only 1% -- for the first time in 30 years, according to the Beverage Information Group, a Connecticut firm that tracks the industry. And American scotch brand sales increased for the first time in 20 years.
Chaldean convenient store owners are creatively working to help customers cope at risk of losing sales. “Times are very bad in our state. The mismanagement of our economy is very bad, but times will get better and customers who are trying to crawl into a bottle may not be able to crawl out when new leaders in Michigan makes things better,” says Karem Nafsu of Drive-In Liquor. “I know my customers and their family. Sometimes it takes someone like me that enough is enough, you have to go home and be with your family.”