Vodka Trends Illustrate Retail Recession Lesson

BY Keith Griffin


"Make mine a Vodka martini, but hold the Grey Goose."

Even liquor gets impacted by the economy with consumers searching out the best values when they head to their local liquor stores. That's why importers and distributors are targeting the retail market with super-premium vodkas at popular prices.

Case in point would be Wodka, a Polish vodka imported by Panache Imports of Brooklyn and distributed in Connecticut by Ace Distributing, a seven-year-old Plainvile company.

Panache president James Dale likes to brag that the days of people paying too much for overpriced Grey Goose that costs "for $50 a liter are over." His Wodka vodka costs about $13 a liter.

Walter Kaczynski, president of Ace Distributing, said vodka is a "category that is exploding because people are looking for values. People want the best ... but are sick of overpaying. Wodka is Grey Goose quality that blows away Smirnoff."

Kaczynski wanted the rights to Wodka, which is why he pursued the product. Dale said Panache Imports is expanding the brand in states where it is approached by local distributors like Ace. It doesn't seek out distributors. Connecticut, he said, was a natural extension for the New York company that bills its Wodka as "Hamptons Quality, Newark pricing."

Wodka appealed to Kaczynski because it is keeping with his company's goal to provide high-quality liquors at value prices. "[Wodka] is super premium at a price everybody can afford. It's an old-fashion style product that is produced for the new world."

And what a new world is it when it comes to vodka. A public relations official at Diageo Importers in Norwalk, which imports Smirnoff - the world's best-selling vodka, said over the last three to four years 300 new vodkas have been introduced into the market. Vodka helped prevent the overall distilled spirits gross income declining from its 2008 level of $18.7 billion in 2008, based on Distilled Spirits Council of the United States figures. Vodka accounted for 30 percent of industry volume and 24 percent of industry revenues at $4.6 billion in 2009.

"It's one of the fastest growing categories in spirits," said Kaczynski. "Tequila might grow at a higher percentage but not when you look at volume. Also, vodka sells all year. There is no peak to it."

Retail Expansion On Agenda

The International Council of Shopping Centers' Connecticut chapter will hold its annual Connecticut luncheon and program on Nov. 9 at the Aqua Turf in Southington. The theme of the program is "Yes, We Are Expanding! Retailers That Are Expanding in Connecticut."

Retailers presenting at the program include PC Richards, PTI (Personal Training Institute), Pollo Tropical and Sonic Drive In. The panel discussion is being moderated by Richard Korris, principal, Northeast Retail Leasing and Management Co.

Cost is $45 in advance for members and $60 for non-members. Onsite registration is $60 for members and $75 for non-members. Registration is available at

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Boutique Aids Dress For Success

Vice Versa Boutique, a women's retail shop owned by Yseline Suarez that carries vintage and contemporary clothing, will mark its one-year anniversary and honor Dress for Success Hartford by hosting a fashion week Nov. 4 to 6. Dress for Success Hartford is a not-for-profit organization that provides professional apparel and services for disadvantaged women seeking employment.

All events will be held in the VVB Alley at Vice Versa Boutique, 419 Main St., downtown Hartford. Registration is required. To see a complete schedule of events and RSVP, go to:

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Wellness Center Opens

Sweet Serenity Therapeutic Massage & Wellness Center, 9a Pasco Drive, East Windsor, held its grand opening on Oct. 23. The day included a skin care seminar and a class on the benefits of massage. A portion of all product sales at the grand opening were donated to the CT Breast Cancer Coalition Foundation.