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N.H. liquor sales hit record in fiscal 2013, but revenue came in below target

New Hampshire’s state-owned liquor stores made record sales of $603.5 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, though they fell short of their revenue target for the year.

Total sales in fiscal 2013 were up 6.9 percent, or $38.9 million, from fiscal 2012, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission announced yesterday. Gov. Maggie Hassan in a news release called it “another fantastic year for New Hampshire’s liquor stores, bringing an important boost for the state.”

But the Liquor Commission brought in less money than expected for the state government. It sent $132.6 million to the general fund in fiscal 2013, 4.6 percent below its target of $139 million, according to preliminary revenue figures from the Department of Administrative Services.

Earlier this year, Liquor Commission officials warned they face increased cross-border competition from Massachusetts, which in 2011 eliminated its 6.25 percent sales tax on alcohol.

“A dismal winter combined with the worsening overall economic conditions and gas prices also had an impact on sales” in fiscal 2012, and carried over into fiscal 2013, said George Tsiopras, the commission’s chief financial officer, in a statement.

More than half of New Hampshire’s liquor sales are made to out-of-state residents. The top five stores in terms of sales last year are all located on or near the state’s borders: the two stores on Interstate 95 in Hampton plus stores in Portsmouth, Salem and Nashua.

Liquor and wine sales are a major source of revenue for New Hampshire’s state government. According to the commission, its best-selling liquor over the last 12 months has been Absolut Vodka and its best-selling wine has been Alamos Ridge Malbec Mendoza from Argentina.

The figures announced yesterday were unaudited; final numbers should be available in September.

The state budget that became law July 1 counts on $270.2 million in general fund revenue from the semi-autonomous Liquor Commission over the next two years.

The commission plans to open a store in Milford next month, and the new state capital budget includes funding for new stores in Epping, Salem and Warner. In addition, the two liquor stores on Interstate 93 in Hooksett are set to expand as part of a larger redevelopment and expansion of the Exit 11 rest areas, which are expected to open in April 2015.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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