Liquor sales spike at ABC stores during 1st full month of stay-at-home order

Liquor sales spike at ABC stores during 1st full month of stay-at-home order
New Hanover County ABC Stores could soon be open on more holidays. (Source: WECT)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Liquor sales at North Carolina’s ABC stores spiked during the first full month of social distancing due to the coronavirus.

CBS 17 News obtained the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s sales report for April, and it showed a year-over-year increase of 34.9 percent in sales at those liquor stores.

Those figures, along with debit and credit card data for April from a Raleigh-based credit union, paint a fascinating picture of consumer spending habits during a month spent under a statewide stay-at-home order designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

ABC stores sold $106 million worth of liquor in April, after selling $78.8 million in April 2019.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued the order March 17 that closed bars and dine-in restaurants, but ABC stores were among the essential businesses that were allowed to remain open.

Not surprisingly, the closing of bars had a dramatic effect on sales to establishments that sell liquor by the drink. That number dropped by 99.6 percent —- to just $82,809. That figure was at $21.1 million last April.

Accounting for both types of sales, the commission reported an overall year-over-year increase of 6.43 percent to $106.3 million.

Of the 171 individual ABC boards scattered across the state, all but eight of them showed year-over-year retail sales increases last month with three of them — in Belmont, Concord and Angier — upping their sales by more than 90 percent.

The Wake County ABC Board reported a 42.4 percent increase to $12.4 million — the highest total in the state — while the one in Durham County showed a 38.8 percent increase to $3.5 million and Cumberland County’s board showed a 53.2 percent increase to $4 million.

Additionally, data provided by Coastal Federal Credit Union showed its members spent more than 30 percent more per trip to the grocery store — with an average purchase between $55 and $63, compared to a normal average sale amount of just under $45.

Home improvement stores also saw more activity from credit union members, who spent up to 23 percent more in a year-over-year comparison and 15 percent more than last month.

The data also showed increases of 90 percent in spending and volume of transactions at amazon.com.

Not surprisingly, with the stay-at-home order in effect for the entire month, the credit union says its members 80 percent less on travel than at this time in previous years.

Among other areas seeing significant declines, according to Coastal’s data: Healthcare spending dropped up to 30 percent from last year, with elective procedures being postponed to free up capacity at hospitals; spending at restaurants fell by 60 percent from last April — and by 40 percent from March.

And purchases at fuel and convenience stores plummeted by more than 40 percent, with the credit union saying that reflects lower gas prices and motorists limiting the number of trips they’re making.

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