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Supermarkets, Sunday Hours Help Pa. Liquor Board Reach Record Sales

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Buoyed in part by the long overdue addition of stores within supermarkets, statewide sales for the 636-store state-controlled Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) increased 7.6 percent in the first-quarter from the same period a year ago.

The PLCB's system-wide first-quarter sales of $277.4 million were $19.5 million ahead of last year's pace. The first quarter growth in fiscal 2005 follows record sales for 2004 ended June 29, which totaled $1.39 billion -- $119.4 million or 9.4 percent more than 2003's sales of $1.27 billion. Sfirst quarter volume was also boosted by Sunday hours, new outlets on state lines, and an expanded wine selection,

Although the agency's 2004 sales included an extra week, adjusted total sales for 2004 were still a record $1.36 billion, $94.1 million or 7.4 percent more than 2003.

PLCB officials attributed the robust sales growth to efforts aimed at improving customer service and convenience, which includes opening Pennsylvania's first phase of "One Stop" full-scale wine and spirit stores within supermarkets. The first store -- located within a Clemens Family Market in Whitpain Township -- opened in December. By September, the 5,400 square-foot store had surpassed the $3 million sales mark, a figure that PLCB spokesman Bill Epstein told Progressive Grocer "is about 40 percent higher than comparable size stores. We have a very good partner in Clemens, and have been really pleased by their strong support and the equally strong customer reception the store has received."

Aside from the first Clemens site, three additional "One Stop" PLCB stores are currently operating in Keystone State grocery stores, including two in a Pittsburgh area in a Giant Eagle and Shop 'n Save. A fourth unit was opened earlier this month in a Concordville, Pa. Foodsource by Clemens, while a fifth store will open in early December in Bill’s Shursave Supermarket in the Pocono Village Mall, Mount Pocono, Pa.

The 10,000 square-foot Shursave unit will feature two entrances -- one from the exterior and one from within the supermarket -- and will carry a full selection of selection of fine wine and spirits. The store’s proximity to the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border is aimed at helping the PLCB win back customers who have shopped out of state for wine and spirits.

"The introduction of One Stop Shops" -- which are staffed by PLCB employees using PLCB cash registers – "has been one of the most significant developments in the PLCB’s 70 year history, and customer reaction has been overwhelmingly positive," said Epstein, who notes that the stores give customers the convenience of purchasing groceries and wine and spirits in the same location.

"By mid-2005 we’re looking at another six supermarket stores," said Epstein, adding that negotiations are also underway for additional sites throughout the Commonwealth.
-- Meg Major
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