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Virginians turn to Tito’s and Hennessy during the pandemic

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Posted at 5:43 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 17:50:59-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) reported gross revenues of $1.2 billion during the fiscal year 2020 (July 1, 2019 - June 30, 2020). That figure is $117 million more than the previous year.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has created "pervasive uncertainty" in the words of the ABC, has had both positive and negative impacts on the state-run alcohol business.

“In the months leading up to the pandemic, our sales performance was strong with a 7% increase over the prior year,” Virginia ABC Chief Executive Officer Travis Hill said. “While we saw even greater growth as the pandemic took hold, we also had to meet the challenges of keeping our customers and employees safe.”

One added COVID safety feature was the coupling of online ordering with curbside pickup.

"Online order growth was a major contributor in FY 2020, averaging 23 orders per day at the start of the fiscal year, and growing to 419 orders per day by July," an ABC spokesperson said.

The ABC also said store remodels and the relation of 13 stores to "improved market areas" contributed to the rise in revenue.

The ABC took a hit when one of its biggest customers -- the restaurant industry -- shutdown in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

"From March to July, as restaurants struggled with closures and limited operations as the result of COVID-19, sales to licensees ranged from 0% to 10.6% of ABC’s overall sales volume," the spokesperson continued.

The state did loosen some liquor laws and allowed restaurants to sell to-go cocktails to customers who ordered to-go meals.

"In response to the challenges faced by its licensees [restaurants], ABC provided relief from regulatory challenges amid the pandemic by permitting the delivery and takeout of mixed beverages, accelerating the process for receiving outside dining area applications, and deferring license renewal fees," the spokesperson said.

Licensee sales finished FY 2020 down 19% compared to the year before.

One thing the pandemic has not changed is the type of liquor Virginians buy.

The top five brands purchased in Virginia ABC stores during the fiscal year 2020 were:

1. Tito’s Handmade (vodka)
2. Hennessy VS – (cognac)
3. Jack Daniel’s 7 Black (Tennessee whiskey)
4. Jim Beam (bourbon)
5. Patron Silver – (tequila)

Hennessy saw the biggest jump in sales ($35.3 million to $46.9 million - up 33%)

Tito’s Handmade increased from $42.1 million to $52.3 million - up 24%)

Fireball Cinnamon made the top five list last year and is the only spirit from that list that did not appear on the 2020 list.

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