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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — More booze in New Hanover County means more money in local government coffers.

New Hanover County’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board saw a more than six-percent increase in sales in the last fiscal year. The ABC Board will distribute more of its profits to local governments than in the year before. Year-end figures also show large increases in retail sales as well as in liquor sold to bars and restaurants.

At today’s ABC board meeting, members found out year-end total sales grew to more than $33.4 million. Net income for 2012 after expenses and legislative distributions, was $2.55 million. That’s 13 percent higher than last year. Meanwhile Operating expenses dropped more than three percent.

The ABC Board approved additional profit distributions to New Hanover County, Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach. Because of what the board called an exceptional year, this year’s disbursement will total $1.9 million. That’s up from $1.5 million a year ago. The county and municipalities will share the additional $400,000.

About 70 percent of all ABC sales come from its eight retail locations, with the rest from bars and restaurants. Retail sales have grown modestly, reflecting a weak economy. In 2011, lower priced product had accounted for much of the sales growth, but CEO Dan Sykes says consumers have recently begun trading up to premium brands. He also reports New Hanover County’s growing tourism trade and favorable weather helped surpass overall state trends this year.

ABC officials also credit better customer service for the increase in profits. Historically, all bars and restaurants in New Hanover County were serviced from the 17th Street location. However recent changes approved by the ABC board allow designated commercial customers to now purchase liquor from the Carolina Beach and Porter’s Neck ABC stores.

Sykes credited the ABC’s 41 full time and additional part time employees with improving sales and helping the system run efficiently. He also credits the combined city/county Downtown Task Force with sharply curtailing late evening disruptions and an overall increase in security for downtown patrons. Recognizing the success of the task force, the ABC Board will continue a $180 thousand contribution for a second year. The task force made 54 alcohol related arrests in the past month.

Major cost efficiency improvements were accomplished in product handling, order processing, budgeting and internal controls. Upgrading computer hardware and software has significantly improved purchasing, inventory and accounting controls.

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