GARLAND — After a couple years of net profit losses at the Garland Alcohol Beverage Control location, ABC board members and employees have turned the store around by upping sales, cutting operating expenses and, for the first time in nearly a decade, presenting a donation to the town.
On the heels of a record-breaking ABC donation to the City of Clinton last week, the Garland store made similarly positive strides at its small-town store — recording profit gains for the first time since 2008-09 and presented a check of $1,000 to the town, the first donation since 2005.
After a 2011-12 that saw $220,973 in sales, but a net loss of more than $1,000 for the year, the Garland store in 2012-13 earned sales of $223,527. Taxes of $50,578 and expenses, including cost of goods and operating expenses, of $169,126, totaled a combined $219,704, leaving a net profit of $3,823, according to figures released by N.C. ABC and presented by Garland ABC chairman Phillip Smoak.
Earlier this week, Smoak took the Garland Board of Commissioners through the highlights of an audit prepared by S. Preston Douglas and Associates on the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013.
“The utilities are down. We had a mild winter and we didn’t have to buy all that oil. We were watching our inventory just trying to hold down our overhead. And, obviously sales being up — I contribute it to more people coming to town due to the new (Han-Dee Hugo’s) store being open,” said Smoak. “I think that hurt us last year with the (gas station) being closed. It draws a lot of people to town.”
The audit presented at Tuesday’s town meeting represented another step in the right direction for Garland, In 2010-11, the audit showed a net loss of $4,625 and that improved to a net loss of just $1,098 in 2011-12, despite a dip in sales from $227,641 in 2010-11 to $220,973 in 2011-12.
However, measures taken to reduce operational costs proved effective. They were again successful this year, and were aided by a bump in sales, which meant the store showed a profit for the first time in four years.
In 2009-10, the sales to the public at the Garland store totaled $238,570. However, after taxes and expenses, the store netted a loss of $8,567, or 3.6 percent of income. In 2008-09, sales were even larger, at $247,905. With taxes and expenses equating to around $247,500, the store actually boasted a profit of about $400. That was down from the previous year, 2007-08, when a $2,261 profit was reported.
Last year, Smoak said the economy, coupled with Garland’s sparse population, have had something to do with the decline in sales and subsequent profit. Unlike Clinton, ABC operations in Garland and other small towns also do not sell liquor to ABC permitees. That, and a low base population, has been the obstacle confronting Garland and one they have worked hard to overcome, Smoak said at the time. That was only amplified by the economic recession.
He expressed his hope that the then-brand new Han-Dee Hugo’s location would bring more people to town and subsequently drive sales where the lack of restaurants to sell to has perennially hurt Garland.
On Tuesday, Smoak said the new convenience station aided the ABC store in seeing a slight rise in sales, which along with cutting operating expenses from $57,328 in 2011-12 to $53,914 in 2012-13, got the Garland store back in the positive.
The Garland ABC Commission currently has working capital of $20,300, Smoak said.
“I think we’re pretty solid with that,” he noted.
“We thank you for your dedication in working with ABC,” said Mayor Winifred Murphy. “We are glad we’re in the black and not in the red. So next year, we expect to see a little bit more.”
“Each year, we’re trying to get better, but we did come up with something and did have a successful year last year,” said Smoak.
Just as Murphy expressed her hope the Garland ABC board would one year present the town board with a check like it had in years past, Smoak interjected. “I’m getting ready to present one to you,” he said. “It won’t quite be as big as the one in Clinton, but we’re going to give something.”
Last week, the Clinton City Council received a check of $131,200, with other checks also distributed to police and schools that took the total amount of local donations from the Clinton location to in excess of $170,000.
“They’ve got a lot more sales,” Smoak noted.
In 2012-13, the Clinton ABC location had total income of approximately $1.75 million, consisting of roughly $1.63 million in liquor sales to the public and about $130,000 in sales to mixed beverage permitees. Garland relies solely on the former, and has a fraction of the population from which it can draw customers.
Smoak and ABC board member Liz Johnson presented the town of Garland with a check in the amount of $1,000 to a shocked Murphy and a round of applause by those in attendance at the meeting.
“This is wonderful,” said Murphy. “We’ve never received a check before. It’s been a long time. This is fantastic. I was just joking about the check. That was a surprise.”
The $1,000 check was the first donation since a $1,186 local distribution in 2005.
Commissioners noted that Garland’s figures in 2011-12 put it at the bottom of that state. Smoak said it was enough to make the news on regional TV stations. He said that he can see a change now. “We’re holding on. We’re doing the best we can,” said Smoak. “We’re a business in town and it’s a service to the community, whether you partake or not.”
He said that, since its inception in 1974, the Garland ABC Board has contributed $485,000 to the town.
“Use it to the blessings of the town,” Smoak said, “and maybe next year we can make it a little bit bigger.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.