Cook County sweetened beverage sales continue to decline

SHARE Cook County sweetened beverage sales continue to decline

Pop tax opponents held a rally outside the Thompson Center on Sept. 12 — one of many public protests against the tax, which likely will be repealed this week. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Some retailers have seen their beverage sales decline by around 47 percent, according to numbers released to Can the Tax Coalition from the county’s retailers.

The coalition, which receives funding from the American Beverage Association, teamed up with stores from the Illinois Food Retailers Association. Of the 32 stores that opted to share sales data with the coalition, 24 said that they had experienced sales declines of more than 20 percent. Thirteen of the retailers reported declines of more than 30 percent, and five said that their beverage sales have declined by 40 percent or more with the highest reported at 47 percent.

The data is a comparison of sales from August 2016 to August 2017 to get a “year-over-year comaprison” of sales before and after the penny-an-ounce tax went into effect, said David Goldenberg, a spokesman for Can the Tax.

The coalition will have a press conference with some of the retailers at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Leamington Foods, 3240 W. Roosevelt Rd., to discuss the effect of the tax on their sales.

The announcement comes less than a week after the Cook County Board of Commissioners sent a repeal ordinance of the tax to the Finance Committee. A public hearing on the effect of the repeal of the tax is set for Oct. 10.

The beverage tax has been a highly contested issue since it was implemented on Aug. 2. It was initially set to go into effect on July 1, but a lawsuit from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association delayed the process until a Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled in the county’s favor.

A week after the beverage tax went into effect, some retailers reported declines of 10 percent to 15 percent.

Goldenberg said the new declining numbers weren’t surprising and that the coalition “warned this would happen.”

“Resident outrage has grown, consumer flight is happening and the decline in beverage sales and overall sales is coming to fruition,” Goldenberg said. “This is the same thing that happened in Philadelphia, only in Cook it’s happening a lot faster and more dramatically.”

Frank Shuftan, chief spokesman for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, said that they have “no idea” how Can the Tax collects its data but “we don’t expect anything different from their big-buck, Big Soda-funded campaign.”

“What we do know is that the services and programs that revenue from the soda tax helps to fund are critical to the public health and public safety of all Cook County residents,” Shuftan said.

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