ABC sales up 27% last month; traffic beginning to level off after March increase

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 10, 2020

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY – Rowan-Kannapolis ABC locations saw a surge in customers mid-March as the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic increased, something General Manager Terry Osborne attributes in part to concerns from the public that the state would shut down its controlled liquor stores.

Sales were up 27.35% in March and have started to slow down since then. But Jake Alexander Boulevard ABC Manager Mark Sokolowski said the the store is still busier than normal — seeing the kind of traffic expected during the holiday season, but the crowds slowed down. Sokolowski said most customers are following social distancing guidelines.

Pennsylvania controversially closed its controlled stores, which like the other 16 states with board-controlled sale of spirits including North Carolina, sells all of the bottles of liquor in the state. But there are concerns about the impact closing liquor stores could have on people with alcohol use disorder. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be so severe people who suffer from the disorder can require hospitalization, placing a greater load on the hospitals and health care systems in the midst of dealing with the pandemic.

Osborne contends control is important and the stores do not take pride in the increased sales per se. Osborne said he’s taken note of medical information about the importance of the stores staying open as an essential business because of the impact closure would have on people who suffer from a disorder.

Osborne noted high alcohol by volume spirits that include Everclear, which have been a popular item in the Rowan-Kannapolis stores. They are being used to create makeshift hand sanitizer.

During an increase in sales, the stores have also taken on more precautions in addition to extra sanitary steps already in place. There are plexiglass shields at the checkout areas, and every store is enforcing a maximum occupancy of 10 people, including employees. Osborne said the stores are also encouraging customers to adhere to social distancing recommendations in addition to avoiding picking up items and then placing them back on shelves.

Employees were already wearing gloves. The stores are now accepting cards only to pay to prevent the potential spread of the virus via cash and there have been more employees brought in to sanitize the stores.

“I’ve been so proud of employees,” Osborne said. “They’ve been here through it all and they’ve gone beyond the call of duty.”

The stores are also considering following the lead of some retailers and making the first hour the store is open exclusive to seniors who are at the greatest risk of becoming seriously ill as a result of coronavirus infection.