'Out of stock': Liquor supply issues continue as demand soars

Like so many other items, the pandemic disrupted the global supp[ly chain needed to make and bottle liquor.
RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Bottles of customers' favorite liquors are replaced with 'out of stock' signs at some ABC stores across North Carolina.

"The last couple of weeks I've noticed and been like wow, 'they're out of everything,'" said Raleigh customer Julia Robbins.

A spokesperson for North Carolina's ABC Commission said the ongoing liquor shortages are due to multiple factors all happening at once.

One of the issues is with deliveries. Last month the state started working with a new business to manage warehouse and delivery services. The transition required new processes and software that have led to some missed or delayed deliveries.

"The ABC Commission has acknowledged that LB&B Associates' implementation of the new contract has not met expectations or the level of service that the ABC customers deserve," a spokesperson for the ABC Commission wrote to ABC11.

One of the main issues is supply and demand. Like so many other items, the pandemic disrupted the global supply chain needed to make and bottle liquor. Suppliers citing shortages in drivers, glass, corks and labels. Some distilleries also reported shortages in some supplies needed to make their spirits.


The pandemic also shut down some production and now supply is trying to catch up to the surging demand.

Last month's sales at ABC stores were up 38% compared to July 2019, according to data from the ABC Commission.

As sales surge, they are outpacing predicted trends adding more pressure and challenges.

"If current sales trends and current challenges in logistics continue (in addition to delays in procuring raw materials) then the reality is these challenges in maintaining consistent inventory levels to fulfill demand will sustain potentially into 2022," wrote Meredith McCormack with the NC Spirits Association.

Chris Power, the co-owner of the newly opened Young Hearts Distillery, is hoping to help fill some of the high demand.

"It's a huge opportunity for us because some of the spirits that we are going to be making are vodka and gin and some of these obscure spirits that people are really starting to seek out, you'll be able to pick up," Powers said.

The downtown Raleigh distillery is already seeing a big flow of customers.

"People maybe can't find their favorite spirits at a liquor store, they'll be able to see us and grab something new and different, take it home and try it at their own home bar," Powers said.

A spokesperson for the ABC Commission called the current situation "unacceptable". Recently, the ABC Commission has allowed distilleries to ship directly to customers. ABC is also monitoring the performance of the newly hired company and working directly with suppliers and ABC boards to remedy specific issues.

Bryan Hicks with Wake County ABC said Wake County has not been hit as badly as some other counties and the issue seems to be slowly correcting itself locally. He also said Wake County ABC stores try to keep supplies stocked for three to four months to prevent major shortages during peak events and holidays.
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