Sam's Club and cranberry, please: Why a store-brand vodka might work

Sam's Club and tonic, anyone? Following in the footsteps of one of its biggest rivals, the warehouse club is planning to launch its own premium store-brand of vodka.

While the new vodka may not have the same yuppified name recognition as Ketel One or Blue Sapphire, it's fancy sounding name, "Rue 33," and sleek bottle will undoubtedly turn some heads among the Sam's Club shopping crowd.

Sam's Club plans to sell the new vodka in 240 of its more than 600 U.S. stores at the end of January. The vodka, to be sold in large 1.75-liter bottles for $28, will include the proprietary label markings of the store's "Member's Mark" brand.This move comes more than a year after the successful launch of Costco's private label vodka and scotch, which was followed by a new tequila last month -- the chain has long carried private-label wine and beer. The moves makes sense: Consumers have been turning away from premium brands of liquor, favoring the cheaper cocktail fuel. Compared to mid-range vodka at between $25 and $30 for a 1.75-liter bottle (Costco's store label vodka is a few dollars more), Sam's Club's offering will be attractive to the cost-conscious consumer.

Would a premium French vodka with a Sam's Club label work behind the bar of a trendy watering hole? Probaby not. But judging from the success of an almost identical liquor, Grey Goose -- which was "invented from thin air" by liquor baron Sidney Frank in the 1990s, and quickly became a darling of just the sort of yuppie who orders by brand name -- it's a pretty darned good idea for the shoppers of a warehouse club.

After they stock up on bulk items at the club, they can unwind with a Sam's Club and cranberry.
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