CONCORD, NH – When the coronavirus hit the state, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission was already in the midst of a multi-million dollar overhaul of its software system, updating everything from the website to the point-of-sale system in the 76 liquor and wine outlets in the state. The system hadn’t been overhauled in decades, and the liquor commission knew it was time for a more modern feel and eventually an order-online service.
But when the state shut down, the liquor commission realized that the pandemic presented the perfect opportunity to launch in-store and curbside pickup for remote orders. In March, the commission began offering the service at two stores: those located on interstate 93 North in Hooksett, and interstate 95 north in Hampton. Slowly, the service expanded to 10 locations: two each on the interstates in Hooksett and Hampton; Londonderry, Manchester, Pembroke, Rochester, Salem and West Lebanon.
“This new program provides customers with a convenient, efficient and new way to shop at our NH Liquor & Wine Outlets and based on the volume of orders, it is clear this offering is in demand,” said commission Chairman Joseph Mollica.
Since the program launched, more than 1,200 orders totaling more than $250,000 in sales have been placed online, said Nicole Brassard Jordan, deputy commissioner for the commission. Customers can order online for next-day pickup: there’s not yet any same-day pickup option. When they arrive at the store customers can pop their truck or hatch and have their order placed in it, giving a completely socially-distanced shopping experience.
“We wanted to offer to customers who wanted to come to our stores but were hesitant to do so,” said Brassard Jordan.
That option helped keep the state liquor stores busy. Sales at the Liquor and Wine Outlets in 2020 are up more than 5% over 2019. Last year, the liquor commission contributed more than $162 million to New Hampshire’s state revenue, money that will be more important than ever during the pandemic. With sales increased, the profit from the outlets will likely be greater this year.
“Instead of going to restaurants, people are purchasing every bottle to make those drinks they would like,” said Brassard Jordan.
While the liquor commission might expand order-online service in the future, for now the program will be capped at the ten stores currently participating. That’s because the commission is still focused on the technology overhaul, which will eventually require the ordering service to switch platforms. To streamline the technology side of things it made sense to offer the service at a limited number of locations.
In addition, the logistics of curb-side pickup can be tricky. The commission had to implement the service at stores with a large variety of products, and where there was enough parking to accommodate curb-side service without employees having to walk too far from the store. They tried to hit each region in the state, although that hasn’t been entirely accomplished yet.
“We would like to expand it for sure, we don’t know what that looks like as of yet,” said Brassard Jordan.
This story is part of the 50 Businesses, 50 Solutions series, shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative, that aims to highlight how business leaders across the state, from mom and pop shops, to large corporations have adapted to meet the challenges and disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus in the hopes others may be able to replicate these ideas and innovations. Tell us your story here. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.