NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - There are days employees at New Hanover County ABC Stores can count on to be busy — Fridays typically see around twice as much in sales as any other day of the week — but it’s special occasions that really bring in the big bucks.
“It’s tremendous. You won’t believe the amount of liquor that’s sold between Christmas and New Year’s,” said interim ABC Board director Tom Wolfe.
Wolfe, who has been involved with alcoholic beverage control (ABC) stores for decades, serving on New Hanover County’s governing board, and stepping into the interim director role in the latter half of 2019.
The county ABC board operates on a June to July fiscal year, but WECT obtained the sales records from the 2019 calendar year.
In that time period, New Hanover ABC stores brought in more than $50.6 million in revenue across its stores, with $2,866,561 of that revenue coming in on the seven days immediately preceding a major holiday.
Fridays are generally the most profitable days for the stores, where Mondays bring in the least revenue.
The most profitable day of the year: July 3rd, with stores bringing in a combined $525,882.
Other profitable days include those leading up to Thanksgiving Day, New Year’s Eve, and the Fridays before Memorial Day and Labor Day.
There were two outliers in 2019 — Sept. 3-4 saw $722,398.01 in sales as New Hanover County prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian.
The single most popular product: Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which Wolfe said is not only the most sold item in New Hanover County, but across the state.
With so much revenue based around holidays, Wolfe said the calendar is something they have been looking at closely.
State law mandates that all ABC stores must be closed on five holidays: New Year’s Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Traditionally, New Hanover County ABC Stores have also closed on MLK Jr. Day, Easter Monday and Memorial Day — though some stores have been open on Memorial Day in recent years.
“Well, we right now have adopted a lot of the holidays that the county has,” Wolfe said, but added the board is considering opening on some of those holidays, including opening two stores this MLK Jr. Day.
“Since we are a retail entity, we are revisiting those and we’ll probably just adhere to probably five holidays that are mandated by the ABC Commission,” he said.
Wolfe said the market supports being open on those holidays, but time will tell if consumers truly want the extra time to shop for alcohol.
“What I will hope to see is that we have the sales to support opening up these stores on these days," he said. "I’ve been in the retail business for many, many years, and the consumer will vote. They will tell you.”
The move comes as an effort to privatize liquor sales in North Carolina has again failed to gain momentum in the General Assembly.
Proponents say privatizing would mean more in tax revenue than counties and cities are getting in disbursements from the ABC system.
Until that happens, Wolfe said the New Hanover County ABC board wants to do whatever it can to keep bringing in the cash, so it can give it back to local coffers.
“We are a profitable entity, and we do pump money back into this, into the county,” he said. “We’re cognizant of that, and we consider it a fiduciary responsibility to make the money and disperse it back.”
Editor’s Note: Revenue numbers include New Hanover County ABC sales to liquor-by-the-drink customers such as restaurants and bars. Additionally, it was noted that Nov. 28, 2019 showed sales revenue, despite that day being Thanksgiving Day. WECT has reached out to the ABC board to check the accuracy of the documents provided and will update this story if information becomes available.