Panic buying

Credit card stats reveal fall in alcohol spending

April 15, 2020
By Alana House

Bottle shop and online sales have soared since hospitality venues closed, but new data reveals alcohol spending in Australia has fallen overall.

Analysis of credit and debit card transactions from Commonwealth Bank shows bottle shop sales were up 86% year on year during panic buying three weeks ago. However, alcohol spending is now just 23% more than usual.

At the same time, alcohol spending in pubs and bars is down 72% compared to last year.

“Spending on alcohol had been holding up because of the spike in sales at bottle shops,” CBA head of Australian economics Gareth Aird said. “But alcohol spend has since rolled over as the unprecedented drop in spending at hotels, pubs and bars far outweighs the lift in sales at bottle shops.”

Alcohol Beverages Australia Chief executive Andrew Wilsmore told The Sydney Morning Herald the “total decimation” of sales at pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants had led to an increase in online sales, but beer, wine and spirit producers had reported up to a 30% decline in sales overall.

“Indications are that overall sales and volume loss ranges from 10% to 30% with many small producers even more severely impacted,” Wilsmore said.

YouGov says Aussies are drinking more

The figures are at odds with national polling by YouGov Galaxy, commissioned by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).

According to the YouGov stats, one in five Aussies have purchased more alcohol than usual during the pandemic, and the majority are drinking more.

It shows that 20% of people are buying more alcohol, and 70% of them are drinking more than normal.

FARE CEO Caterina Giorgi said: “Alcohol sales are up over the past month and while the alcohol industry wants you to believe that people aren’t actually drinking that alcohol, this YouGov Galaxy research reveals the truth.

“Increased drinking by people worried about COVID-19 might be good news for alcohol industry executives, but it’s certainly worrying news for our community’s health.”

Online sales still booming

Online wine retailer Vinomofo said it had seen a 50-75% increase in sales since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.


“People are no longer buying from restaurants and bars so have transitioned that experience to at home,” Co-founder and chief executive Justin Dry told the SMH. “For us at the moment we are running a million miles an hour to keep up with the growth.”

Vinomofo turned over $45 million last financial year, but Dry said the business was on track to turn over in excess of $60 million this year.

He said consumers were ordering the same amount of wine per consumer as previously, but there were more consumers ordering online. Shoppers were also more price sensitive – the average bottle price has come down by 5% to $16.

Alcohol sales continue to boom in US

For the week ending March 28, 2020, growth rates for beer, wine, and spirits sales slowed in the US compared to the huge levels Nielsen reported in the previous week.

“Yet sales are still much higher than what we would typically see for the last week of March,” Nielsen said.

Total off-premise alcohol sales were up 22% for the week ending 3/28/20 versus the same week last year. For context, sales were up 55% for the week ending 3/21/20.

Beer/flavored malt beverage/cider dollar sales were up 17% for the week ending 3/28/20. Spirits and wine sales were each up 27%.

Total alcohol e-commerce sales skyrocketed +291% for the week ending 3/28/20 versus the same week last year, and was the fastest growing department in percentage terms.

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