Tue, Nov 22, 2022 3:29 PM
By Anthony Hennen, The Center Square
Pennsylvania residents’ taste for wine and spirits keeps growing, setting a new total sales record of over $3 billion.
State control over those sales has meant a boost in state revenue. Operating expenses have been trimmed over the last five years, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board explained in its annual report.
“In fiscal year 2021-22, the PLCB achieved total sales of $3.02 billion (including liquor and sales taxes), reflecting a $109.9 million or 3.8% increase over the prior year and marking gross wine and spirits sales over $3 billion for the first time in PLCB history,” the report said.
Net income hit $331 million, a 25% boost over 2020-21, and $786 million went to the commonwealth’s General Fund.
Retail sales, however, fell by 3.4%. The decline “illustrate(s) a return to ‘near normal’ prepandemic purchasing patterns,” the board noted in a press release. Retail is about 75% of the agency’s sales, with licensee sales outside the Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores making up the rest.
“We’re not sure if this is a permanent shift or a one-time thing coming out of the COVID pandemic,” Press Secretary Shawn Kelly said.
Online sales fell by almost 20% compared to last year, but are still higher than before the pandemic. Some customers may have made a habit of sticking with online sales for convenience.
The long-term shift in drinking patterns remains unclear, Kelly said.
“We probably won’t know for another year or two until we look at the overall trends, but it was a good year for the Liquor Control Board overall, we’re happy with our performance,” Kelly said.
Operating expenses have also gradually declined by almost 20% since 2017-18, from $523,000 to $420,000, thanks to lower operating costs and lower long-term expenses, Kelly said.
Allegheny, Philadelphia and Montgomery counties accounted for 35% of statewide sales, and whiskey was the top share of sales statewide. Vodka held the second-highest share of sales in 63 counties, while red table wine was second in four counties.
Though sales are up, drunk driving doesn’t appear to be. Based on the latest data from 2020, alcohol-related crashes in Pennsylvania have reached a five-year low, as The Center Square previously reported.