Sales at Ontario liquor stores were up 3.9 per cent to $4.9 billion in the 2012-2013 fiscal year and yielded a record $1.7 billion dividend for the provincial government, the LCBO said Monday.

Sales grew $182 million to a net total of $4.892 billion, outpacing the growth in the national and Ontario retail sectors. The dividend to the government, which goes into the provincial public coffers, hit a new record high, rising 4.3 per cent over the previous fiscal year.

Net income was also up — 3.2 per cent — to $1.711 billion.

Craft beer sales up 33%

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario said it was the expansion of its store network and "operational efficiencies" that drove the positive sale results. The LCBO opened 12 new stores, relocated 16 and made significant upgrades to another two. It estimates these improvements earned it an extra $30.5 million in sales.

"Despite a challenging retail economy, LCBO was able to deliver these results by managing expense, careful product and inventory control and executing store network improvements," CEO and president Bob Peter said in a news release.

Ontario craft beers experienced a surge in sales, rising 33 per cent over the previous fiscal year. Sales of Ontario wines were also up — increasing 5.4 per cent.

The LCBO saw increases across its line of products:

  • Spirits sales rose 2.3 per cent to $1.97 billion (imported spirits were up 4.4 per cent).
  • Wine sales rose 5.2 per cent to $1.75 billion (whites up 5.9 per cent, reds up 4.1 per cent).
  • Beer sales rose 3.9 per cent, totalling $923 million.
  • The Vintages product line of fine wine and spirits as up 3.5 per cent to $434 million.

LCBO gift cards were also bigger sellers this past fiscal year and brought in $62.9 million, a 20.7 per cent increase over last fiscal year.

The financial results released Monday have not yet been audited.