HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board continues to work on ramping up its website, as online sales are soaring during the coronavirus pandemic.
600 Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores were forced to close to stop the spread of COVID-19. The board is still allowing purchases online at random times of the day, so its website doesn’t crash.
“The website is about 2/10 of 1% of our annual sales total,” said Shawn Kelly, the press secretary for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. “We are doing as best of a job as we can to scale the website to accept the increased customer demand due to the store closings.”
It’s no secret customers are frustrated when they see this message pop up on their screens, but the board is asking people to be patient as it ramps up online options and opens more fulfillment centers.
Originally, there was just one of these centers in the hard-hit Montgomery County, which had to be temporarily shut down until social distancing practices were put in place.
Now, two more are up and running, in the Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre areas.
To put this surge in demand into perspective, the website had nearly 40,000 orders between 2018 and 2019.
Since the site got back up and running in April, there have been more than 18,600 orders.
So in just a couple of weeks, it’s already at almost half of its yearly total.
While the board has made $1.7 million in sales during this time, it’s still unclear how much money will be lost with stores being closed.
The board usually provides more than a half a billion dollars a year to the state’s general fund.
“Some of it is profit transfer,” said Kelly. “Some of it is through the generation of taxes. We also fund about $32 million to the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement. A few million dollars goes to the Pennsylvania Department of Drug & Alcohol programs. Licensing fees are returned to local municipalities.”
While none of the state’s Liquor Control Board employees have been laid off or furloughed, about 4,500 of its 5,000 workers have been impacted.
They have the option to use their own paid leave or go on unpaid leave, while still having health benefits.
But, hundreds of employees are returning to work this week, as the board is staffing up its new fulfillment centers.
The board doesn’t have an idea of when Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores will reopen, but its planning for ways to resume operations once it is safe to do so.