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02.2009

Massachusetts Beverage Business

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SEEKING a LIFT FROM LIQUOR

ACROSS THE COUNTRY state budgets everywhere are desperately in need of additional revenue. In New Hampshire, the hope is that a change in the way liquor is sold will generate much needed funds to help with the $25O million deficit the state is facing. New Hampshire State Liquor Commissioner Mark Bodi told lawmakers in December that his agency is developing a plan that would end the state’s 75-year monopoly on liquor sales. Grocery stores, which have been selling beer and wine for the past 3O years, would also be able to sell hard liquor. To boost revenues, the state has three objectives: improve the market share in the liquor sales industry, reduce costs at existing state-run stores and close poor performing stores. As there are only 76 liquor stores serving the entire state, opportunities for growth are limited but those opportunities would likely expand if the 12OO grocery stores that currently sell beer and wine add liquor. In addition to more locations, grocery stores also stay open later. The extra opportunities to buy are particularly for tourists and out-of-state visitors, who account for much of the state’s business in liquor sales and have made New Hampshire the national sales leader on a per-capita basis. Additionally, partnerships with grocers would enable the state to either cut back or completely close some of the worst-performing, state-run stores.
The stores along the borders do the best, with annual sales ranging from almost $25 million at the Interstate 95 North store in Hampton to $7.5 million in Plaistow. At the bottom are stores in places such as Groveton and Whitefield grossing less than half a million each. These stores mainly exist for the local population’s convenience and are likely costing the state money. The availability of liquor in local grocery stores could allow for closing some smaller outlets, without forcing people to drive long distances for their purchases. John Dumais, president of the New Hampshire Grocers Association estimated that under the right conditions, expanding sales to grocery stores could add millions in new profits to be shared between the stores and the state.

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