One Blog |April 10, 2020 | Blog

WSJ: Coronavirus Closed the Bars. America Stocked the Liquor Cabinet.

Todd Grote

In today’s blog, we take you “behind the paywall” to share some interesting recent data about beer, wine and spirits sales.


In this morning’s Wall Street Journal, there is an interesting story about recent sales trends of beer, wine & spirits.  Because it is behind their paywall, and due to copyright restrictions, we are not able to share the full article, but here are some of the most compelling segments:


Sales of alcohol at U.S. liquor and grocery stores jumped 22% for the week ending March 28, compared with the same period last year, according to research firm Nielsen. Online alcohol sales have also soared, while many states are temporarily allowing restaurants and bars–for the first time–to make home deliveries or sell wine and cocktails for takeout.

So far, those gains are more than offsetting declines in drinking away from home, according to the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, a trade body that collates data on sales made to retailers as well as restaurants and bars. It says overall wine sales jumped 10% in March from a year earlier and spirits sales 9%, but doesn’t know if people are drinking more or just buying more.

Retail sales of alcohol have also risen sharply in some European countries as they entered lockdown. In the U.K., for instance, sales soared 58% in the week before restrictions came into effect but have since normalized, according to Nielsen.

Diageo PLC, the world’s biggest liquor maker, on Thursday said sales of its brands had risen in retail stores in both North America and Europe in March, but it was unclear whether the rise would last. In the U.S., Diageo makes 20% of its spirits sales from restaurants and bars and in Europe it makes 50% of sales from those channels.

Online ordering and delivery–an area where alcohol has lagged behind grocery–is seeing strong growth and could get a longer-term boost from new habits formed during the pandemic, industry executives say.

Boston-based alcohol-delivery company Drizly Inc. said sales were 461% higher in the last week of March than it expected, with 41% of recent orders from new users. Chief Executive Cory Rellas expects the pandemic to accelerate online sales to as much as 8% of all alcohol bought from retailers, up from around 2% today.

Grocery delivery firm Instacart Inc. said the number of orders containing alcohol grew more than 75% in March.

Bricks-and-mortar chains also think their e-commerce drive during the pandemic will have a lasting impact.

Gary’s Wine & Marketplace last month suspended in-store sales at its four New Jersey locations amid worries that overcrowding could harm staff and customers. Instead, the chain launched a new website and converted stores into fulfillment centers, grouping bestselling wines together so staff could pack orders efficiently.

Gary’s now makes between 150 to 200 deliveries per store a day, compared with three to five before the pandemic. Curbside pickup orders have tripled and its previously little-used mobile app has been downloaded 10,000 times in the past couple of weeks.

“Now that they have the mobile app we believe people will get used to using it,” said founder Gary Fisch.


Which brings us to our closing thoughts: What we are all experiencing now can be viewed as a giant reset button.

Once we successfully get through this pandemic, things will be different. Almost everything will be different. How we work, how we socialize, how we communicate, and how we shop.

Of course, people will continue to drink.  All of us in the beverage alcohol industry should be thinking about how we will adapt to the new ways consumers will shop, purchase and consume beverage alcohol on the other side. Amid the current difficulties we are all experiencing, it can be comforting and inspiring to think about the tremendous potential and opportunities that lie ahead.

Over 100 Beverage-Alcohol Distributors Trust OnTrak solutions.

OnTrak is a Proud Member of:
Wine & Spirits Wholesales of AmericaNational Beer Wholesalers Association Path to Purchase Institute

Hundreds of Beverage-Alcohol Wholesalers Use OnTrak

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