July 22. 2013 6:09PM

NH wine and liquor sales hit an all-time high

By Union Leader staff

CONCORD — The New Hampshire Liquor Commission had its best year ever in fiscal year 2013, generating $603.5 million in total sales, an increase of $38.9 million — or 6.9 percent — over the previous fiscal year, according to figures released Monday for the year ending June 30.

Revenue to the state general fund from those sales reached $145.6 million, which is used primarily to fund programs in education, health and social services, transportation and natural resource protection.

NHLC Chairman Joseph W. Mollica attributed the record sales figures to the relocation and renovation of 13 New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlets, as well as promotional campaigns, sales efforts and new customer service training implemented in the past year.

“Promotional campaigns like the ‘In the Mix Kitchen Series’ at our Nashua outlet are introducing consumers to a variety of new products and influencing new purchases through weekly food and wine pairings,” he said in a news release. “We are interacting with new customers in creative ways through our Summer Fun Tour, a statewide marketing campaign sponsored by Bacardi that encourages residents and out-of-state visitors to shop at our outlets and win a number of great prizes.”

The two top-performing stores were the Hampton I-95 northbound location, which netted $32.7 million, and the I-95 southbound location, which netted $28.9 million. Rounding out the top 10 were stores in Portsmouth, Salem, two Nashua stores, the two Hooksett stores on I-93, West Lebanon and Keene.

“Major sales efforts like our Outlet Price Busters and Wine Power Buys played a major role in driving sales,” added Mollica. “All of this, combined with a more pleasant shopping experience thanks to store renovations, enhanced customer service training for full-time employees and smarter in-store merchandising, has resulted in more profitable stores.”

Eleven of the 78 liquor stores experienced increases of $1 million or more in sales.

Since 2012, the Liquor Commission has renovated or relocated outlets in Concord, Gilford, Hampstead, Lebanon, Lincoln, Manchester, Merrimack, Nashua, North Hampton, Peterborough, Plaistow, Portsmouth, and West Chesterfield.

A new Liquor & Wine Outlet is scheduled to open in Milford in August, while prominent new sites in Bedford and Manchester are scheduled to open in fall 2013 and mid-2014, respectively.

The Governor and Executive Council recently approved plans to construct two 20,000-square-foot Liquor & Wine Outlet stores as anchors to the Common Man Restaurant’s redevelopment of the rest areas along I-93 north and south in Hooksett. The two new outlets will be more than double the size of the existing locations.

The new stores will feature larger aisles, prominent displays and greater selections, according to Richard Gerrish, NHLC Director of Marketing, Merchandising and Warehousing.

“We anticipate our spirit selection will increase by 50 percent and wine offerings will increase 75 percent,” he said. “All these factors lead us to project up to $6 million in sales increases between the two locations.”