Sales at Northfield’s municipal liquor store were up for a fourth year in a row, according to a report from the state auditor’s office.
The annual audit, which looks at sales and profits in 2010 from all 209 cities with municipal liquor stores, shows that Northfield store’s profits also rose over 2009 and 2008 figures. In 2010, the store had a net profit of 7.6 percent. That’s compared to 6 percent in 2009 and 5.5 percent in 2008.
And while Northfield isn’t in a league with the state’s most successful liquor operations — Edina, Eden Prairie and Lakeville — all which had sales of more than $10 million in 2010, the city’s “muni” is performing well compared to its peers in this part of the state.
Of the 11 stores in the Southeast region, Northfield is far and away the most successful, with more than double the sales — $2,852,512 — of the Lonsdale muni, which had the second highest sales in 2010 at $1,430,550. At 6.5 percent, Kenyon had the second highest net profit as a percentage of sales, but its sales were less than a quarter of Northfield’s.
Of the 11 stores in the region, five showed a loss.
Part of the store’s success, said liquor store Manager Stephen DeLong, is Northfield’s demographics. The city is located close to the Twin Cities and has a well-traveled population that enjoys trying new wines.
But because there are so many wines from so many regions across the globe, DeLong sais his store benefits from having a knowledgeable staff that can help customers in their selection.
“Service is the No. 1 priority,” he said. “From the moment the person walks in the store, that’s the focus.”
But even as Northfield’s liquor store continues its upward movement, DeLong knows the store could have even greater sales and be more profitable.
The small, antiquated space on Fifth and Water doesn’t allow DeLong to take advantage of special buys — because there’s no place to store them. And, he estimates, he’s paying for 30 hours of labor a week that wouldn’t be necessary if the store had a walk-in cooler on the same level as its storage.
The Northfield store also transfers out more of its earnings than other Southeast region stores — $131,280. Kasson and Medford transfer out $53,500 and $50,000 respectively.
A fraction of Northfield’s $131,280 goes to pay for the IT support the liquor store receives, said city Finance Director Kathleen McBride. The remainder goes into the general fund, which pays for city operations.
The store also contributes another $20,000, said McBride. About $15,000 goes to support the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth, Alcohol and Drug Use, a group that educates young people on the dangers of substance abuse. The remainder — about $5,000 — pays for the DARE program in Northfield’s elementary schools.
Reach Suzanne Rook at 645-1113. Follow her on Twitter @rooksuzy.