When we last looked into liquor store visits, foot traffic to the sector was significantly higher than it had been in 2019. A couple of months later, it looks like visits to alcohol retailers are still booming.
Growth Across the Board
Although the country is mostly reopened and the wider retail economy is on the rise, liquor store visits are still significantly higher than 2019 levels. Analyzing visits to three regional chains (BevMo! on the West Coast and Arizona, Spec’s in Texas, and ABC Fine Wine & Spirits in Florida) and to one national chain (Total Wine & More) reveals that retail alcohol sales are still surging.
July actually marked the strongest month of the year for all four brands, with visits to Total Wine & More, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, BevMo!, and Spec’s up 39.9%, 38.4%, 15.7%, and 39.1%, respectively, compared to visits in July 2019. And while the visit surplus narrowed slightly in August – with Total Wine and Spec’s seeing its year-over-two-year visit surplus drop below 20% for the first time all year – all four chains still experienced significant increases in visits compared to August 2019.
Labor Day Dip – and Surge
Given that August 2019, unlike August 2021, included the first two days of Labor Day Weekend, the contraction in August could be attributed to the differences in the calendar rather than to a real drop in demand.
So, while visits were down the week of August 23rd compared to the equivalent week in 2019 – because that week in 2019 included Labor Day Weekend – visits were back up the week of August 30th, which included most Labor Day Weekend this year but was just another week in September in 2019.
Is the Increase in Alcohol Visits Really Due to the Pandemic?
Several studies found that alcohol consumption rose over COVID, with experts speculating that people were drinking more as a way of dealing with the increased stress, isolation, and uncertainty caused by the pandemic. And with bars and restaurants closing throughout the country, visits to wine and spirit retailers grew as direct to consumer alcohol sales increased.
But data shows that visits to the leading liquor chains were already increasing before the pandemic. Visits to Total Wine & More, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, BevMo!, and Spec’s were up almost every month in the year leading up to the pandemic when compared to the same month in the previous year. This makes the 2021 visit numbers all the more impressive and suggests that rising alcohol consumption might not be an exclusively pandemic-driven phenomenon.
Will liquor store visits continue to rise? Will August mark the beginning of a contraction?
Visit Placer.ai to find out.