By Tony Bongiovanni, owner, Cellarbrations at Gisborne
As COVID-19 restrictions ease around the country, it’s been fascinating to see the impact on Christmas liquor sales and supplies at independent stores.
Ironically, the topic that has everyone talking – now that the country has the coronavirus under control – is the shortage of Corona beer. Frustratingly, we are unable to satisfy demand for many consumer favourites at this important time of the year, with “out of stocks” on the increase. I believe the issue with Corona to be widespread across the industry. There are even rumours that the issue has been exacerbated by a container ship being hijacked! Plus production and distribution of beer from the Corona brewery in Mexico has impacted by COVID.
We’ve been assured that more than 600,000 cartons of Corona will be delivered during December, which will help replenish stock and meet the increased demand.
Lion has also struggled to keep up with demand for White Claw hard seltzer. Last week the company had to fly 4000 cases of White Claw into the country following stock racing off shelves after its launch in October. Many independents have been told they won’t be able to get their hands on supplies until January. While I’m still not convinced about the long-term prospects of the seltzer category, there’s no doubt the marketing campaign around White Claw has been very successful.
RTDs, sparkling wine and beer are leading the charge in sales as we enter the festive season, with the still wine category holding its own. Prosecco is lagging a little, other than as a mixer for Aperol Spritzes, with Moet, Veuve, Piper and Mumm being the biggest selling bubbles.
Sales in the spirits category haven’t changed much since lockdowns. However, it’s still a very strong performer, with gins, whiskies and various liqueurs continuing to very well. At-home cocktails remain popular, with mixology kits proving to be a sought-after gift.
Overall, liquor sales are definitely up on last year. It’s like people are celebrating their freedom, with the added bonus of Christmas festivities. People are gifting more than before, although their personal consumption appears to have eased.
Looking to 2021, it will also be interesting to see the fallout of China’s trade embargo’s and in particular the ridiculous tariffs imposed on Australian wines. There’s a lot of talk about the impact it will have on prices but, like the rest of 2020, it’s hard to predict what will happen next!