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Grocery Wine Sales Bring Major Change To Pennsylvania Retail Landscape

May 31, 2017

The pace of liberalization for Pennsylvania’s alcohol industry has accelerated over the past several years, with changes in the state liquor code expanding sales channels for spirits, wine and beer. The impact has been significant, as Pennsylvania’s wine and spirits sales advanced 4.5% to $2.3 billion in 2016, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB).

One key initiative, Act 39, went into effect last August. The new measure has expanded wine sales beyond state-owned stores by allowing retail businesses to sell up to four 750-ml. bottles of wine per transaction. Under this new regime, Pennsylvania now has about 360 retail wine-to-go permit holders, including about 190 grocery and convenience outlets. Hotel and restaurant license holders can also apply for permits to sell wine to go.

“All the permit holders buy their wine from the PLCB, so we’ve developed a wholesale operations division and expanded our direct delivery program to help this new class of customers effectively forecast, plan and support their wine-to-go operations,” says Tim Holden, chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Pennsylvania’s wine sales increased 5% to $1 billion last year on a 3.4% volume gain to 9.3 million nine-liter cases. The top brands by volume were Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay ($12.99 a 750-ml.), Cavit Pinot Grigio ($6.99), Apothic Red ($9.99), Woodbridge Chardonnay ($7.99) and Barefoot Moscato ($7.99). “We expect that growth, which we’ve seen for the last five years, to continue in 2017,” Holden says.

Act 39 also lifted restrictions on the number of the PLCB’s Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores allowed to open on Sundays. Those stores can also start selling at 9 a.m. on Sunday instead of waiting until 11 a.m. The change is already paying dividends. Sundaysales increased markedly in 2016, with transactions up 17.8%, units up 18.6% and dollar sales up 18.3% over the previous year. “Sunday sales growth between 2014 and 2015, prior to the lifting of restrictions, was in the range of 4% to 6% for transactions, units and dollars,” Holden says. Market Watch has more on Pennsylvania’s changing drinks retail landscape.

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