New Brunswick residents didn’t just head home at the start of the province’s state of emergency last month. They also swung by provincial liquor and cannabis outlets to stock up.
Fourth-quarter financial results released jointly for NB Liquor and Cannabis NB on Tuesday show revenue bumps that each agency said was caused by a COVID-19-generated buying spree by customers — especially for beer, wine and spirits.
“It is estimated that the impact of COVID-19 on sales during the last two weeks of the quarter was an increase of approximately 12 percent,” reported NB Liquor in a release explaining its results.
That equates to an extra $4.4 million in sales over two weeks at the end of March. Cannabis NB said it recorded a more modest $214,500 in extra sales from residents stocking up for the state of emergency.
Both agencies closed out their fourth quarters and fiscal years on March 29.
New Brunswick recorded Atlantic Canada’s first case of COVID-19 on March 11 and Premier Blaine Higgs declared a state of emergency on March 19, requiring residents to stay at home except for essential work and errands.
For thousands of residents, those essential errands included attending to depleted liquor cabinets and recreational drug needs.
“The last two weeks of the quarter marked the beginning of emergency measures to respond to COVID-19,” noted Cannabis NB in its financial report.
“It is estimated that the impact of COVID-19 on sales was during the last two weeks of the quarter.”
It’s not clear what motivated the spree, but there were some concerns in the early days of the pandemic about the ongoing availability of alcohol and cannabis products.
Across the border, the Prince Edward Island government announced on March 18 it would be closing government-owned liquor and cannabis stores on the island. P.E.I. eventually softened that stance, but the move was widely reported in New Brunswick at the time.