Nielsen reported that alcohol sales in stores were up 54% in late March 2020 compared to that time last year, while online alcohol sales were up nearly 500% in late April. At my store, we are experiencing increased sales, but this increase comes with additional responsibility and potentially at the expense of others in the business.  While I feel fortunate for the increase there are challenges associated with operating and keeping staff and customers safe and healthy.  In addition to public health responsibilities, the industry is struggling with the dramatic reduction in sales from the closure or reduced operations of on-premise businesses. 

According to the National Association of American Wineries, winery creativity and innovation is filling the chasm of sales caused by shuttered tasting rooms and restaurants. Popular strategies include curbside winery pickup, reduced shipping costs, special Direct-to-Consumer promotions, winery personnel home delivery, wine club specials and virtual wine tastings.

Beverage Daily recently released a report outlining shifts in consumer behavior opening up new opportunities including local products, low/no alcohol drinks, sustainability, and premiumization.

I have a few additional trends that I’m seeing at the store that I’d like to add to the list.

  1. The emergence of the domestic bartender. I don’t know about you, but not being able to go to some of my local water holes means that I’m not able to try new artisan mixed drinks and my favorite bartenders’ unique concoctions. Just as me and my family are enjoying more meals at home around the dinner table, I’m enjoying more tinkering and experimentation with spirits, fresh squeezed juices, and liquors. Oh the joy of egg whites!
  2. Virtual happy hours! When speaking to friends that typically work in a more traditional office environment, I am hearing about the rise in popularity of virtual happy hours. Rather than meeting up with friends at the local brewery or distillery, colleagues are jumping on zoom calls, hosting meetings, and doing so while enjoying an adult beverage in the comfort of their own home. One of the perks is that happy hour can start earlier in the day. Hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere
  3. An uptick in people treating themselves.   Since the start of the pandemic we have noticed the majority of our customers are purchasing more product at a lower price point than they were before COVID-19.  That said, in the absence of travel, gym access, spas, and restaurants we are finding that many customers are spending more on fine wine than ever before.  Enjoying a world-class bottle is one of the ways people can treat themselves to a nice experience at home.  The next time you are out buying wine, consider purchasing less product and increase the quality of your wine.  It is a good way to treat yourself in these crazy times.

When it comes to wine, beer, and spirits, what new trends and traditions are you seeing?