November 22, 2013
Ocracoke ABC store still struggling with cash flow
By CONNIE LEINBACH
Ocracoke ABC store is once again struggling with seasonal cash flow and
will certainly welcome shoppers purchasing spirits for the holiday
Information revealed at a public meeting on Nov. 18
shows that sales began to slow down in September, and the Hyde County
ABC Board is still trying to resolve some of the finances of prior
“Part of our struggle is years of mismanagement,” said
Meredith Nicholson, board chairperson, during the meeting.
“There’s been some kind of problem with the Hyde County ABC Board for
10 years and we’re trying to catch up.”
The budget for
2013-14, devised by former board chair Keith Parker-Lowe estimated
liquor sales in the county’s only two ABC stores -- on Ocracoke and in
Swan Quarter -- to be at $979,000. The reality is going to be a lot
lower—by about $300,000, said Gary Davis, an Ocracoke CPA hired by Hyde
County. This is where the casting about for more cash is coming
from as the board also revises its budget to send to the state auditors
by next spring.
“If we get $14,000 in sales from today until the
end of the month, we’ll be good,” Gibbs said at the meeting about the
“We need additional cash-saving measures,” Nicholson said. “One of the big ones is closing stores.”
board agreed that the Ocracoke store will be closed for three Tuesdays
in December – on Dec. 3, 10 and 17, in addition to being closed
Sundays, said Vicki Gibbs, general manager of both stores.
January and February, two of the weakest cash months, the store will be
closed for two days a week. Those days will be determined at the
December meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9.
The store also
will be closed Thanksgiving Day, Dec. 25 and 26, and Jan. 1, as
mandated by law, Gibbs said. It will be open Christmas Eve and
New Year’s Eve.
Nicholson noted that closing the Ocracoke store a couple of days in the winter months is typical.
addition, if needed, the board members voted to reduce their own
monthly stipends of $150 by $50 for a few months. The board also
will ask the Hyde County commissioners to forego a few monthly rental
payments of $280 on the Swan Quarter store, which Hyde owns, until cash
flow improves. It also has asked about requiring Parker-Lowe to
return by Dec. 1 about $2,000 he received in travel payments for which
he did not submit receipts.
Davis is looking at more areas where
the budget can be cut as well as a few problem areas. One
is that the employees’ pension fund had not been paid for two years.
That amounts to about $12,000, Davis said. There also are payroll
issues from 2006, 2011, and 2012, Davis said, for which he hopes to get
a $3,500 penalty waived.
He said part of the problem is
the lack of professional accounting practices in the past, but he added
that having Gibbs as a manager has worked well this year.
“Vicki has worked hard to get this right,” Davis said.
trying to get caught up, and we are current on the pension plan,” Gibbs
explained in a subsequent interview. “We’re current on
everything. If there’s a penalty from prior years, we’re trying to
figure that out.”
She said that overall sales have been good at both stores, but sales all depend on tourists.
will notice that the shelves are still well stocked with a variety of
products. Because the entire board—Nicholson, Glenda Williams,
from the mainland, and Jim Piland from Ocracoke--and Gibbs are new this
year, they are still learning the whole process. Moreover, Hyde is a
“We don’t want more inventory than we can sell,”
Nicholson said. “When this board gets all these issues resolved, we
will be profitable, or at least not a drain.”
“If we had more of
a profit, the cash flow wouldn’t be so tight, but it’s hard to project
(demand),” Gibbs added about the tricky management.
“But I love
that challenge,” said Gibbs, of Engelhard, who drives the liquor-laden
truck to Ocracoke and unloads it herself. “I love working with all that
stuff. We have a year’s worth of figures and we’ll have that knowledge
One issue is that ABC stores cannot discount
liquor below the prices the state sets. However, Gibbs recently learned
that she is indeed able to discount liquor that hasn’t moved in a
while, but only with approval from the state commission.
“I’m really excited about that,” she said.
“The ABC system has a lot of restrictions you wouldn’t find in a free market situation,” Davis added.
Islanders can attend the meetings held via video conference in the Commons Room of the Ocracoke School.