‘Tis the season: Pa. alcohol sales spike as holidays approach
It’s the holiday season, and everyone is getting into the spirit — or at the very least, into the spirits store.
November and December are far and away the busiest times of the year at Pennsylvania’s Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores. The top single sales day in each of the past five years has come in the run-up to Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Day.
“The top sales days between 2014 and 2018 are dominated by December and November days,” said Shawn Kelly, a spokesman for the state Liquor Control Board, which runs the stores. “The lead-up to Memorial Day is usually just outside the top 10 sales days.”
This year, state stores sold nearly $13.6 million worth of wine and liquor on May 24, the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. To date, it has been the biggest sales day of 2019. A quick look at years past shows it will soon be dwarfed by pre-holiday sales, likely starting Wednesday and continuing over the next month or so.
The top 10 single-day sales marks dating to 2013 all fall between late November and the end of December.
On the day before Thanksgiving for the past five years, state stores have averaged $21.8 million in total sales. Total sales on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving have eclipsed $22 million each of the last four years, including $22.75 million last year.
For Christmas Eve, the total sales average dips to $17 million, with sales on New Year’s Eve averaging $19.6 million over the last five years.
But the run-up to Christmas and New Year’s remain highly profitable for state stores.
The all-time sales record of $25.8 million came on Dec. 23, 2016. Coming in second is the $24.7 million collected on Dec. 31, 2015.
Total sales at state stores last year were $2.5 billion, according to the Liquor Control Board.
The days leading up to Thanksgiving are just as busy as Christmas, and things likely won’t slow down until 2020, said Mala Davis, general manager at Fine Wine and Good Spirits in Natrona Heights.
Clerks have noticed an increase in customers buying gingerbread- and pumpkin-spiced drinks, as well as cranberry wine, eggnog, champagne and rum.
Employees are restocking shelves several times a day, as customers come in to buy cases of wine, each containing 12 bottles, said clerk Tammie Cline.
“It will be like this all the way through New Year’s,” Cline said. “We’ve been moving a ton of stuff.”
Anita Simpson of Greensburg was browsing the shelves Tuesday at the Westmoreland Mall location in Hempfield and said the holidays offer multiple opportunities.
“I know I like certain things, and if we see it on sale for holidays we’ll stock up,” Simpson said. “But my sister likes sweet stuff, which I wouldn’t normally buy, so if I see that on sale, or items I know relatives like, we’ll pick those up as well.”
Jenna Ashburn of Murrysville and her husband stopped by their local state store Monday.
“We definitely go there more often this time of year,” Ashburn said. “Between parties, get-togethers, holiday meals and gifts, there’s a lot to buy.”
The Ashburns favor wine and whiskey.
“We were in Scotland earlier this year and toured several distilleries,” she said. “We were surprised to find that, because of taxes in the U.K., it’s actually cheaper to buy Scotch whisky here at the state store.”
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .