Liquor Sales Spiked In Days Before Irene

The Liquor Commission’s been in the news a lot lately, between record-breaking year-over-year sales and plans to add a new store at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.  But StateImpact was curious about something else.

Was there a spike in booze sales in the run-up to Irene?

Pam Lane/Flickr

StateImpact's got the Liquor Commission numbers for pre-Irene sales.

Remember, right up until the last minute, there was talk of a big hurricane hitting New Hampshire.  Even as a tropical storm, Irene did some serious damage.  But for most New Hampshirites, it wasn’t quite the we-all-have-to-hole-up-with-a-month’s-supply-of-D-batteries event that forecasters thought it might be.

With the run on batteries, emergency tapers, camp cookers, and other hunkering-down gear, StateImpact wondered, was there a run on liquor as well?  After all, without electricity, there would be no computers, no TV, and no e-readers or long cell phone calls to dull the boredom.  And you can only do the ‘ol hunch-over-a-book-with-a-flashlight trick for so long.  So would some people consider booze viable entertainment during a hurricane-induced blackout?

The answer, it seems, is yes.

The Liquor Commission’s Chief Financial Officer George Tsiopras went over the sales numbers with StateImpact.  We’re focusing on Friday, August 26th and Saturday August 27th, the two days before Irene made landfall.  And we’re comparing them to sales figures for Friday and Saturday of the same week last year.

Before we share these numbers with you, there are a few notes.  First: New Hampshire has strategically placed its 76 state liquor stores to draw-in sales from other states.  It’s worked out so well that only around half of hard liquor sales are actually to New Hampshire residents.  So these numbers could represent Massachusetts people and other New Englanders stocking-up, too.  Second:  Because regulations are looser around beer and wine, allowing grocery stores and other retail outlets to sell them, it takes a long time for the Liquor Commission to get those figures.  The agency has no idea how Irene affected those sales.  These are just hard liquor numbers.  Finally: We were interested in retail sales.  So sales to restaurants, bars, and other wholesale customers aren’t included.

NH Liquor Sales, Last Weekend In August

DAY 2011 2010 INCREASE
Friday $1.9 million $1.8 million $100,000
Saturday $1.8 million $1.6 million $200,000
Total Two-Day Sales $3.7 million $3.4 million $300,000
Percentage 5.5% 12.5% 8.8%

So the Liquor Commission saw a $300,000 bump in sales two days before Irene.  Tsiopras notes that the last weekend in August is historically a “stock-up” weekend anyway, with people making last-minute trips to the lakes and closing down their summer homes.  And the Liquor Commission has seen a steady trend of increasing year-over-year sales.  But be that as it may, Tsiopras says, “I think there is some pre-Irene activity there as well.”



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