Besides baking bread and doing jigsaw puzzles, America is boozing it up big time, and that’s good for plenty of D2C marketers.
Still, surging online alcohol sales may spell terrible long-term news for our livers, with new research indicating that all this safer-at-home drinking may be riskier than it seems.
First, there’s happy news for D2C brands. With Nielsen reporting that alcohol sales gained 55% in just one week in late March, a new report from Edison Trends, an ecommerce research company, reports a 200% jump in wine subscriptions. Sales are even 61% higher than the traditional December peak, with companies like Winc, Bright Cellars, Dry Farm Wines, Mash&Grape and Revel Wine all flourishing. (The report analyzed more than 3,700 transactions.)
It makes sense that home delivery of alcohol — like home delivery of anything — should be so appealing now.
But experts are starting to worry. At what point does all that alcohol — not to mention all the hilarious day-drinking Instagram memes it inspires — start to signal something more concerning in consumer behavior?
Experts already see trouble brewing in all these living-room Quarantini-villes, where every day feels like the weekend.
“With the social distancing restrictions of COVID-19, we’re seeing online [alcohol] sales increasing, an increase in demand and restaurants looking for ways to capitalize on the demand,” says Anthony Dukes, professor and chair of the marketing department at USC Marshall School of Business, in a university posting. “It’s a perfect storm.”
Between bars’ online chatrooms and Zoom happy hours, USC predicts trouble that may well last longer than pandemic restrictions. “Economic dislocation, job loss and fear of death by disease are triggers for substance use, which heightens the risk of other issues like suicide and domestic violence,” the school says.
Amid the corona-dread, it’s easy to forget that alcohol is quite a killer in its own right. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that about 14.5 million people in the U.S. have alcohol abuse disorder. And about 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes.
And because of COVID-19 restrictions, getting help is far more difficult.
The World Health Organization, which helpfully labeled alcohol as “unhelpful” early in the pandemic, has suggested governments, alcohol producers and retailers keep reminding people that it’s best to stick to 14 drinks a week or less.
Will consumers stick with home delivery of alcohol when shopping restrictions begin to ease? Probably. But a bigger question may be whether consumers will cut back on their stepped-up drinking.