LCB: Slower growth for some State Stores since Pa. expanded wine sales

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Eric Norris organizes bottles on a shelf at Fine Wine and Spirits Store on Greenfield Avenue in Ardmore.

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania's decision to finally let wine be sold in grocery stores last year won praise in many corners. Still, some worried it could cut into sales at the long-established State Store system.    

On Thursday, the Liquor Control Board acknowledged a dip — of sorts. It said State Stores located near grocery and convenience stores selling high volumes of wine had seen lower rates of sales growth than were projected before the law's passage.

"It's not like our year-to-year wine sales are down," LCB board member Mike Negra told a House panel during a hearing on the agency's budget. "It's just, we're not running as much of an increase."

As of last Friday, the LCB had issued 381 wine-expanded permits for stores to sell bottles to go, according to LCB spokeswoman Elizabeth Brassell.

Its analysis identified about 175 stores that were selling large volumes of wine and then considered about 460 of the state's official Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores located near them.

Before the new law, the LCB had projected 7.5 percent growth in retail wine sales from the last three months of 2015 to the last three months of 2016. Instead, it found that growth at those locations was 5.7 percent, Brassell said.

"Sales are growing year over year at these locations, they're just growing at a slower rate," she said.

The legislation allowing restaurants, grocery stores, and hotels with permits to sell wine to go was enacted in June 2016 and became effective two months later. The law also gives the LCB flexibility in pricing, and removes restrictions on when its 600 State Stores can open on Sundays and holidays.