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COVID-19

Online alcohol sales rise during the pandemic

Scott Tong Feb 12, 2021
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"Cocktails-to-go has been a great phenomenon," says Chris Swonger, CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council. Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Online alcohol sales rise during the pandemic

Scott Tong Feb 12, 2021
Heard on:
"Cocktails-to-go has been a great phenomenon," says Chris Swonger, CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council. Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP via Getty Images
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If this pandemic has left you needing a stiff drink, it may help to know that it’s getting easier to order from home. Online sales of alcohol were expected to grow 80% in the United States during the pandemic, according to the beverage alcohol consultancy IWSR. It’s predicting the U.S. e-booze market will leapfrog over China this year to become the world’s biggest.

Ordering a cocktail from home was not really a thing before the pandemic, but Chris Swonger, CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council, said when the virus hit, state lawmakers pivoted.

“Cocktails-to-go has been a great phenomenon. Over 33 states have adopted cocktails-to-go, and that’s been an economic lifeline for many of those establishments,” he said.

Another piece of the online booze explosion is consumer awareness.

“Most people weren’t aware that they could purchase alcohol online. So when we saw the pandemic hit, we saw the adoption rate really just skyrocket,” said Brandy Rand, chief operating officer at IWSR.

She said this trend began before the virus, picking up steam even through the patchwork of restrictions and regulations.

Every state has its own rules. And in the U.S., alcohol has to flow from a producer to a distributor and then a retailer.

Jordan Berke, founder and lead consultant at Tomorrow Retail Consulting, predicts big companies in beer, wine and e-commerce will start getting creative.

Such as this tie-up in China during the 2018 World Cup: “Customers could use the Walmart app to order cold Corona or Bud beer, and we would deliver it within 30 minutes. And it was an enormous success,” he said.

What’s in store for American drinkers?

“Customers are going to be getting free alcohol delivery pretty regularly,” Berke said.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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