Spirits sales in Virginia reached higher ground in fiscal 2019, fueled by the success of top-selling brands including Tito’s Handmade vodka ($20 a 750-ml.), Hennessy VS Cognac ($39), Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey ($25), Jim Beam Bourbon ($17), and Fireball cinnamon whisky ($16). Retail spirits sales alone set a brisk pace at 7.1%, while Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) licensee sales to bars and restaurants climbed 6.3%. These spirits sales, license fees, and more contributed to the Virginia ABC exceeding $1 billion in revenue for fiscal 2019, up $71.8 million from the prior year—despite the state having the third highest excise taxes on spirits ($19.90 a gallon) nationwide, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation.
Spirits sales were supported with the opening of seven new Virginia ABC stores and eight store remodels during the fiscal year. The new stores—located in Alexandria, Virginia Beach, Ashburn, Chesapeake, Lebanon, Stafford, and Richmond—generated almost $8 million in sales in this time period. “The new stores feature updated shelving, counters, and flooring,” says Virginia ABC CEO Travis Hill. “We currently have 15 new stores in progress, though not all of them will open in fiscal 2020.”
There are currently three store expansions in progress, and two new units have already opened in fiscal 2020. “Remodels will sometimes include an expansion if the option is available,” Hill says. Additionally, four ABC stores were relocated to better market areas. In all, the Virginia ABC operates 382 stores and has about 4,000 full- and part-time employees.
Among the top-five selling spirits brands in Virginia, No.-1 Tito’s posted the highest dollar sales growth rate at 26% to $42.1 million, while No.-2 selling spirits brand Hennessy’s sales grew 6.5% to $35.3 million. Targeted seasonal promotional campaigns also contributed significantly to the banner year. Recent promotions include celebrating National Bourbon Heritage Month on September 19 with a 20% discount on ten select Bourbons. Sunday spirits sales in Virginia also surged 7.4% to $79 million in fiscal 2019.
Trading-up trends were also a success driver. In fiscal 2019, the Virginia ABC offered customers two exclusive barrel picks. “We hand-selected four barrels of Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon ($29 a 750-ml.) and offered bottles in six stores located across the state,” Jeffrey Painter, chairman of Virginia ABC. “We also selected five barrels of Buffalo Trace Single Barrel Select ($27) and distributed the bottles to 200 stores statewide.”
Bourbon, Tequila, and vodka were the spirits with the most growth during fiscal 2019, according to the Virginia ABC. Bourbon sales surged 10.3% to approximately $141.96 million. Among leading Bourbon brands, Woodford Reserve ($37 a 750-ml.) sales climbed 23.6% in Virginia to $9.48 million; Jim Beam sales were up 5.7% to $22.7 million; and, Maker’s Mark ($30) sales grew 4.9% to $15.1 million.
Tequila sales jumped 14.2% to about $96.84 million, while vodka sales were up 4.9% to approximately $248.67 million. Among high-end Tequilas, Patrón Silver ($53 a 750-ml.) sales increased 11.7% to approximately $17.38 million, and 1800 Silver ($30) was up 14.3% to $5.84 million. From a smaller base, Lunazul Blanco ($20) sales gained 48.5% to $3.3 million. Among vodkas, Ketel One ($27) sales propelled forward 6.9% to $7.88 million, and Pinnacle ($12) sales were up 4.6% to nearly $10 million.