By Gary Herman: Alexander County EDC
At their May 14th meeting, the Alexander County Board of Commissioners learned the results of the ABC Store Feasibility Study conducted by Creative Economic Development Consulting. Crystal Morphis, founder and CEO of the firm, presented the findings to the board.
Judy Caywood, Alexander County ABC Store Feasibility Committee Member, provided brief remarks prior to Morphis’ presentation. Caywood said the study was done to determine if the county could financially support an ABC store outside Taylorsville. She said the committee met with a State ABC employee, who recommended hiring a consultant. Caywood said the firm was asked to study the feasibility of opening an ABC store in Alexander County, with additional research focusing on the Bethlehem area.
Morphis then began her presentation, noting that her firm gathered benchmark data from a peer group, which included Davie County, Ashe County, McDowell County, and the Viewmont community of Catawba County.
Data showed that the population in Bethlehem has been growing steadily, and is projected to continue growing; however, the rest of Alexander County is showing little growth. Also, household income in Alexander County is in the mid-range of the peer group ($42,033 in 2017, $46,054 in 2022), but current income and income growth in Bethlehem ($56,282 in 2017, $65,467 in 2022) tops the list.
Morphis said that Alexander County has a lower than average median age (age 42.5 in 2017, 43.9 in 2022) than the other communities surveyed, which she believes is a positive sign for opening an ABC store in the county. Alexander County was in the mid-range of dollars spent on alcohol ($359.92 average per year), but again Bethlehem ($538.08 average per year) is higher than any of the other communities. The data showed that Bethlehem has the highest spending potential index for alcoholic beverages (97 of 100) while the county was again in the middle (65 of 100).
In terms of retail leakage for beer, wine, and liquor, Alexander County has a $515,511 gap, which Morphis said would likely not be enough to merit a new store; however, a five-mile radius of the Bethlehem community showed a $2,027,350 gap, which would exceed the sales of a store. Morphis also noted that the five-mile radius includes the ABC store in Viewmont, emphasizing that the $2 million gap is real. It was mentioned that the Viewmont store is in a high-traffic area, has a lot of traffic signals, is difficult to access, is fairly small, and is aging, which would mean a store in Bethlehem would possibly attract people from Viewmont. Data indicated that the Viewmont store had more gross sales than any of the other stores in the peer group, with sales of $2,070,001 in 2017. In comparison, the Taylorsville store had gross sales of $1,053,982 in 2017.
Morphis said the analysis for only Alexander County was inconclusive, as the Taylorsville store has been growing steadily but the future population projects are negative, income is average, and the retail gap is relatively small. She said that the analysis of the Bethlehem area shows a market opportunity for a new ABC store, with current and projected population increases, income that is above average, and a significant retail market gap.
She suggested that the county move forward with planning an ABC store in Bethlehem, by beginning the process of identifying a site, while monitoring market data to confirm the trends are holding.
Morphis also mentioned that the widening of Hwy. 127 to four lanes in Bethlehem, the Bethlehem sewer project, and proposed housing developments make Bethlehem an even more attractive location for a store.
The board unanimously approved the ABC store feasibility study.