Updated May 6, 2020
The data below is excerpted from weekly updates generously provided by Nielsen. For a discussion of data through 3/28/20, including Oregon-specific performance (see chart at right), see our write-up here.
Weekly Retail Sales by Beverage Alcohol (Bev Al) Segment
The chart below shows growth rates of the major segments of the beverage alcohol category on a weekly basis, compared to the same week in 2019. The growth rate of total FMCG, or fast-moving consumer goods (e.g. packaged food, household products, personal care items, etc.), is shared for comparison.
Data reported is from total Nielsen measured off-premise channels, including Food, Mass, Drug, Convenience, Club, Dollar and Liquor channels.
Week ending April 25, 2020 (Update provided May 6)
Sales growth rates in this period bounced back from the dip seen in the prior week due to the shifting of the Easter holiday timing vs. last year. The wine category grew at 29% vs. the same week in 2019, which also happens to be the wine category’s average growth rate at retail since the beginning of COVID-19 impacts (i.e., the average category growth rate since the week ending 3/7/20).
E-commerce sales for alcohol exploded in April, with 5-6x growth vs. prior year for the 4 weeks ending 4/25/20. This is primarily driven by an increase in the number of people buying through that channel, and also an increase in order size. Wine accounts for 70% of e-commerce sales of alcohol.
Within the wine category, Nielsen notes that Oregon and Italy have led the growth over the COVID-19 period. Oregon is likely to be enjoying higher growth trends in the $20-25 price segment, which has been the top-growing price tier in 7 of the 8 weeks of the COVID-19 period.
Week ending April 18, 2020 (Update provided April 28)
Growth vs. prior year for the week ending 4/18/20 was notably lower than in recent weeks across all Bev Al categories. This may be partially explained by the fact that this week last year incorporated pre-Easter sales, typically a higher-than-normal week for Bev Al sales, especially wine. Under ordinary circumstances, this week would have seen a dip in sales compared to the pre-Easter week in the prior year.
Weekly sales in absolute terms, however, hover around the elevated levels that have been seen since the start of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, and it would be expected that the growth rates will bump back up with the next week’s data.
Nielsen fielded a survey of more than 10,000 bev al drinkers between March 27 and April 17, with a deep dive of frequent on premise drinkers. 28% of that segment reported purchasing more alcohol at physical stores during this time, compared to 15% of average drinkers. The frequent on premise drinker segment is also 60% more likely to have purchased through store delivery or pick-up, 80% more likely to have purchased online from a bar or restaurant, and 55% more likely to have purchased directly from a winery, brewery or distillery.
Finally, the fastest-growing formats for wine since March 7 have been 1.5L and 3L boxes, and 750mL bottles in the $11-15 and $20-25 price tiers.
Week ending April 11, 2020 (Update provided April 21)
Growth trends across all Bev Al categories have held steady for the third week in a row. It’s worth noting that the week ending April 11 included shopping for the Easter holiday. The growth rate of wine increased slightly compared to the prior week, moreso than beer or spirits, consistent with preparing for the Easter holiday, despite the different form that Easter meals may have taken this year.
Notably, growth in the $20-25 price segment of wine outpaced the other segments. This could indicate a rising price tolerance at retail given by a decrease in on-premise purchases, where the price per bottle is usually much higher.
The e-commerce retail channel for beverage alcohol continues to see triple-digit growth rates (+387% for the week ending 4/11/20), and bev al remains the fastest growing department in e-commerce.
In the on-premise segment, the average number of checks has increased, while the average value per check has remained relatively consistent. Also, while Nielsen reports that 62% of consumers reported ordering take-out/delivery in the past week, only 9% included alcohol with their order (17% among those 21-34).
Week ending April 4, 2020 (Update provided April 14)
Leading out of the week ending March 21, 2020, which showed a spike in purchasing vs. the prior year across categories, there was some question about whether the growth would remain, indicating a lift in baseline purchasing, or if pantry-loading was entirely responsible for the increase and we’d see a dip as consumers worked through the inventory purchased mid-March.
With two weekly periods after the spike, we see a leveling off, likely indicating repurchasing and an increase in baseline consumption. Given the closure of on-premise establishments nationwide, this overall increase in retail purchasing may be expected to continue.
Nielsen notes that the premiumization trend that has been seen across Bev Al categories in recent years continues, with the average bottle price tracking up vs. 2019.
Looking at e-commerce specifically, sales across all categories of e-commerce increased +41%, yet Bev Al e-commerce sales were up +441% during the week ending 4/4/20. As mentioned in our previous post, the number of e-commerce Bev Al buyers during the week ending 3/21/20 was two times that of the average weekly number in the prior 52 weeks. Danny Brager of Nielsen offered that we have seen arguably the greatest, fastest change in shopper behavior ever. He also mentioned that in other categories, once consumers start shopping online they tend to repeat. This could indicate a permanent shift in how consumers purchase wine and other alcoholic beverages. Wine.com is seeing triple-digit growth.
Specific to wine, while all major formats are growing at strong double-digits, 3L box has attracted a significant number of new buyers and is enjoying >+80% growth. Domestic and imported table wines are growing at equivalent rates, and the price tiers in the $11-25 range (specific to bottles) are experiencing higher growth rates than the sub-$11 and over-$25 segments.
The DTC channel, as measured by Wines Vines Analytics and SOVOS ShipCompliant, was about 20% the size of Nielsen’s measured off-premise channel in March. While DTC shipments had been growing in the low-to-mid single digits during late 2019 and early 2020, DTC shipments grew 18% value / 30% volume in March 2020 compared to March 2019. However, the average bottle price dropped from $46 last March to $42 this March, but all segments below $150 reported double-digit growth.
Oregon’s neighbor to the north came out on top for DTC shipments in March, with Washington State winery shipments growing +65%. Shipments to consumers in Washington from all states was up 37.5% compared to last March, likely due to Washington being the first impacted state of the coronavirus outbreak.