As bars and restaurants across the United States have locked their doors to comply with social distancing recommendations amid the coronavirus outbreak, Americans are stocking up on alcoholic beverages to avoid running dry during a potential lockdown.
According to Nielsen data, off-premise sales of beer, wine and spirits increased by 14, 28 and 26 percent, respectively, in the week ending March 14 compared to the same period a year ago. While that sounds like a lot, it merely reflects a general increase in retail sales as Americans are stocking up on non-perishables, cleaning products and medical supplies. In fact, the increase in alcohol sales lags overall retail sales, which were up by 40 percent over the same period.
For brewers, wineries and distilleries, the increase in off-premise sales is a silver lining, but it probably won’t be enough to offset the loss of on-premise sales in bars, restaurants, taprooms and the like. Especially smaller craft breweries will likely be hit hard by the current crises as they typically rely more heavily on on-premise sales than the few multinational conglomerates that dominate the beer market.