Pa. supermarkets receive lump of coal for the holidays as wine kiosks go off-line

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board just delivered a rather large lump of coal to those 30-some-odd supermarkets carrying these wine kiosks, especially as retail wine sales for 2010 appear to be on a significant upswing since Thanksgiving.

(THE NEWS: Pa. supermarket wine kiosks taken off-line. For the full story, click here)

The kiosks always had been considered a token gesture to color the PLCB as a more “consumer-friendly” monopoly. But times they are a-changin’.

Because this may be the last holiday season the PLCB can monopolize wine sales in the Keystone State, where the only place a Pennsylvanian can purchase a bottle of holiday wine, if not at one of those kiosks, is at a state-run wine and liquor store.

The state is considering privatizing its state-run liquor monopoly in an attempt to address its own fiscal woes, and governor-elect Tom Corbett is rumored to be heavily in favor of such a change. According to published reports, Pennsylvania could bring in nearly $2 billion by privatizing wine and liquor sales.

And that kind of privatization couldn’t be coming at a better time, at least for those companies that would consider owning and operating a Pennsylvania wine and liquor shop. Off-premises sales of domestic table wine through Nov. 28 rose 6% above the same four-week period last year, and continued on a trajectory to finish 2010 higher than any year since 2006, reported Wines and Vines, a business publication that tracks the wine industry. Citing SymphonyIRI Group data, sales in the four weeks totaled $395 million across chain food and drug stores, Wines and Vines reported.

On an entirely separate note, that pickup in wine sales, and a more significant jump in sales of $20-plus bottles, could be a telltale sign that the economy is on the mend.

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