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VOL. 125 | NO. 4 | Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sam's Club to Sell Its Own Brand of Vodka

EMILY FREDRIX | AP Retail Writer

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MILWAUKEE (AP) - Discount chain Sam's Club is venturing into the world of liquor, launching a new store-brand vodka this month in more than 240 stores.

The company, a subsidiary of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said the Sam's Club store brand Member's Mark will carry a premium French vodka under the name Rue 33. The vodka will sell in 1.75-liter bottles for about $28 and be on shelves by the end of January.

Private-label spirits are unusual, though Sam's competitor Costco has its own Kirkland label of vodka, scotch, tequila, wines and beer.

Vodka is the most popular spirit in the U.S., reaching $4.49 billion in revenue in 2008, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Figures for 2009 will be released later this month.

Sam's Club already works with wine producers to make wines for its stores, but they do not carry the Member's Mark label.

The company is seeing more people entertaining at home, and that's who they are targeting with the vodka, said spokeswoman Susan Koehler. People have been avoiding restaurants in the recession and eating and drinking at home more to save money.

"We saw this was a really great opportunity to introduce something that would be under our own private label brand," she said Wednesday, adding the company was considering expanding its offerings in many categories, including spirits.

Sam's Club has more than 600 locations in the U.S. but due to state laws and other factors, including the size of likely vodka sales, Rue 33 will be sold in less than half its stores.

Rue 33 will be made by French distiller Louis Royer, a company known for its cognac.

Wal-Mart Stores is based in Bentonville, Ark.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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