Virginia ABC sales skyrocket during pandemic

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) — Doors remain open at ABC stores across the state, and although people are ordered to stay at home except for essential reasons, many are finding their way inside these buildings.

Alcohol sales were up by double-digit percentages in March and April. WDBJ7 photo.

Governor Ralph Northam declared Virginia ABC stores essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, like grocery stores, and many people have taken advantage of that.

In fact, enough people have been grabbing booze off the shelves that numbers are at an all-time high.

"What we saw starting in March and then April was just folks reacting to the pandemic news and probably some uncertainly because other states were considering closing their stores," said Travis Hill, Virginia ABC chief executive officer.

March of this year saw a 21 percent jump in sales totals over March of last year.

As for April, it saw a 13 percent jump.

While growth of around six percent is normal from one month of a year to the next, according to sales data from March 2015 to April 2020, the pandemic is influencing a lot more.

Tara Nunley, the clinical director of counseling services at the University of Lynchburg, says those numbers could be a bad sign.

"But we know that that's an easy source for people to go to when they're stressed or when they're depressed or when they're anxious, and so when you have times of heightened stress, anxiety and depression, we're gonna have an increase in alcohol use," said Nunley.

She says those numbers could represent a coping strategy for people who turn to alcohol to get through the times – times in which the economy is unsettled, but booze is readily available.

"As the economy is uncertain, as people are feeling isolated and have high levels of anxiety, they're more likely to abuse alcohol than just use alcohol," said Nunley.

However, Virginia ABC says they don't want people to get into any bad habits with their products, and to enjoy responsibly.

"We have materials available for folks around prevention as well as being able to access resources should they need assistance," said Hill.

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