While wine sales soar, smaller stores aren't drinking in the profits
Consumers bought more of the liquid grapes in supermarkets, drug stores and wine stores than they did at the 78-state owned liquor stores.
"We're selling a more expensive bottle of wine," said Joseph Mollica, chairman of the State Liquor Commission.
"The American palate is more distinctive, and people are buying and choosing higher-end wines to purchase," he said.
Last Thursday, The Wine Studio in Manchester began its "store closing sale."
Owner Maureen Adams said the prime reason for closing the store, near the intersection of Hooksett Road and Webster Street, was "increasing competition from the state of New Hampshire."
"When they put on a sale, it's lower than it cost me to buy from them," Adams said.
Mollica said private shops buy most of their inventory through the state, receiving 20 percent off the retail price.
Mollica acknowledged "power buys" state stores offer sometimes price a $57 bottle of wine for $25. He said private stores sometimes can arrange direct-ship deals with specific wineries.
Adams said she offered weekly wine tastings and priced many of her wines only a dollar or two above state stores in many cases. When she started eight years ago, Adams said state liquor stores focused on top sellers, and she found other wines for customers.
Adams, who lives in Merrimack, said she sold between four and five cases a day. Wine sales made up 75 percent of her overall sales with the remainder coming from the sale of glassware, plates, T-shirts and other items. But the store turned unprofitable, and she said she was ready to retire.
"I think it's part of what's going on with the economy," Green said. "People can't afford their inventory. Too much competition in grocery stores."
For the year ending June 30, 2013, state liquor stores sold nearly 12.8 million bottles of wine compared to 13.3 million bottles sold at supermarkets, drug stores and at other retailers. Consumers that year bought a total of 1.57 million more bottles at all stores than during the previous year.
He had a simple answer on how he competes with state liquor stores.
"I don't. I complement them," Campbell said Friday.
"When you have a fine wine store and you know what you're doing, they come to you," Campbell said.
"All I can say, being the oldest operating private wine store, is they come and they go," he said.