Private Liquor, Wine Sales In South Carolina

Hilton Head Wine and Spirits McGarvey

Mike McGarvey of Hilton Head’s Wine and Spirit Shop displays just a small sampling of the selection on offer.
Photo by Robert Stephen.

Header-image-StephenBy Robert K Stephen (CSW)

(HILTON HEAD, SC) – In South Carolina, supermarkets carry both wine and beer at very competitive pricing. According to Mike McGarvey at Hilton Head’s Wine and Spirit Shop, South Carolina faces the continual threat from big box stores such as Walmart, Sam’s Club, and the larger grocery stores that keep prices of liquor and wine extremely low, just to get customers in the door to buy the higher marked up items.

The secret, according to Mike, is to keep one step ahead of the big boxers by sourcing good wines before the big boxers do. True American capitalism.

And the prices in South Carolina are low, particularly on beer.

For example, $12.99 for a 12 pack of Corona in the grocery store. On spirits expect to pay $8 to $10 less than what you would pay in Ontario.

This is all despite federal and state liquor taxes and state sales taxes.

It seems the private system of liquor distribution both benefits consumers and government alike. What is Ontario so terrified about?

Wynne throws a bone to the consumer by permitting beer distribution in grocery stores, but I bet you won’t see a 12-pack of Corona at $12.99. In fact, a 6 pack is $13.75.

If government authorities in South Carolina are happy with a privatized system ,why not Ontario?

According to McGarvey, the mark-up on spirits is in the range of 30% to 40%. There is little reason to sell beer considering the cutthroat prices on it.

Hilton Head Wine and Spirits

The expensive wines at the Wine and Spirit Shop are kept in what Mike McGarvey calls the Candy Room.
Photo by Robert Stephen.

There is lots of money in Hilton Head. You see it and it’s backed up when I hear Mike’s top seller is a Rombauer Chardonnay at $36.99. In fact, the real high end wine is kept in the Wine and Spirit Shop’s Candy Room.

On the red side, Pinot Noir is big, particularly Russian River Pinot Noirs. Mike really knows his wine.

Mike says that sales are about 2/3 liquor and 1/3 wine.

The biggest seller is Tito’s vodka from Texas. While prices are substantially lower in the Canadian selection of wine and spirits, it is rather limited by Ontario standards. Thank goodness Sam’s Club is not distributing liquor in Hilton Head just yet. Neither is there a Costco. Mike says while wine and spirit prices are lower in the big boxes, selection is extremely limited.

(Hilton Head Wine and Spirit Shop, 32 Shelter Cove Plaza, Hilton Head, South Carolina, 843-785-2277)

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC.

Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden.

Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, “Have Story, Will Write.”

Email Robert Stephen

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