BERLIN — Three weeks after opening, the Department of Liquor Control’s (DLC) new flagship store on Route 50 has caught up to the sales rate of the West Ocean City store that it replaced.
The strong sales have not negatively impacted the business at the Berlin DLC location yet. If that pattern holds through the summer, the Berlin location is likely to remain open, according to DLC Director Bobby Cowger.
It’s been all around good news for the department so far with sales at the new store, which is located just east of Seahawk Road, doing better than expected this early in the season.
“We think it was advertised fairly well,” Cowger said of the flagship store that replaced the former West Ocean City DLC mart. “Any time something is moved it takes a while. Actually, we figured that it would take 30 to 60 days to get back on track and it has hit that level quicker then we’d expected.”
Cowger did not divulge an exact sales figure, which he worried might be misleading, but stated that his department is impressed by the current pace of sales. Officials are, however, hoping to see sales continue to go up past the old store’s averages since the new flagship location is considerably larger.
“We’re comfortable with it at this point but we’re expecting a significant increase because of the type of store, the new store and everything we’ve invested and done there,” he said. “We are satisfied that in three weeks we’re back to where the old store was but we’re definitely expecting it to increase and get better.”
One question that has remained unanswered since the new store opened is what will happen to the DLC store located in Berlin. Because of its proximity to the flagship store, the fate of the long-standing Berlin location has been in limbo for months. However, Cowger revealed this week that the new facility has not hurt Berlin’s sales so far.
“The sales have not dropped in comparison to what the Berlin store has done in the past,” he said.
Because it has only been three weeks, however, Cowger admitted that the numbers could change. If the new store begins to drain sales from the Berlin location, the situation will likely be re-assessed.
“We’re probably going to at least run through the end of the summer and if it doesn’t have a huge impact on that Berlin store we’re going to leave it open,” he said. “We would prefer to leave it open and hopefully it won’t have a negative impact on that store.”
Like the retail side of the county’s liquor control, wholesale is also holding strong, Cowger added.
Though the flagship store is several miles west of the old location, there have not been complaints from liquor license holders who need to brave Route 50 traffic to collect shipments, according to Cowger.
“The licensees seem to be really satisfied and happy. I’m not getting complaints seeing as we moved that wholesale pick-up four miles out further that they have to travel to get product on emergency pick-ups and that type of thing,” he said. “And they have not complained so we’re really pleased with that, it not being an issue with them.”
Licensees haven’t had any problems with supply either, Cowger promised.
“And they seem to be real happy with the selections there and buying there. It’s going real well,” he said.