The pioneering digital alcohol delivery service Drizly recently conducted a nationwide survey of independent alcohol store owners and managers. The results help paint a picture of the state of beverage alcohol retail in America as 2019 heads into 2020.
Among the notable findings are a disparity between short-term health (positive) and longer-term business outlook (mixed at best), predictions of organic and natural wines replacing mighty rosé as trendy growth champ, and social media marketing overtaking in-store events to match the growing influence of millennials.
Drizly’s first annual study posed both quantitative and qualitative questions in order to reveal numbers and attitudes shaping decision-making in the business:
- Retailers are confident in business growth . . . for now. While independent alcohol stores are growing now, owners and managers see a more challenging future. Even though two-thirds (over 66%) reported higher sales in 2018 compared to 2017, only 42% of respondents see independent liquor stores as viable in the long term.
- Product stocking decisions: shelves rule today, trends can wait. In another short-versus-longer term contrast, independent retailers rely on their own sales data more than any other factor for short-term inventory decision-making (34%), while trend reports rank fourth (14%). That gulf comes as a surprise, at a time when trends are taking hold faster and having more lasting impact than ever before. Case in point: this year’s spiked seltzer and wellness beer crazes.
- Growth drivers: organic wines on indies’ radar. Asked which products in each major segment stand to fuel growth the most, independent retailers see organic and natural (cited by 25% of respondents) putting a thorn in rosé’s side (17%). In beer, it’s still IPA for growth (42%), and in spirits, the bourbon boom shows no signs of letting up (40%) — at least not in retailers’ minds.
- Marketing has gone social. Somewhat surprisingly, 70% of retailers cited social media as the most effective marketing tactic for making and retaining customers, ahead of in-store events (64%) and offering delivery (62%). It may indicate the growing influence of millennials in business planning.
- CBD’s impact: jury is out. Less than one third (32%) of independent retailers said that CBD-infused beverages stand a chance to meaningfully grow business, while 22% see them as a possible niche at most. Fifteen percent reported not being familiar with CBD-infused beverages at all.
“Independent retailers are the lifeblood of our industry and our platform, so understanding what’s working for them, where they see opportunity and what keeps them up at night is essential to helping them thrive,” explains Blaine Grinna, director of retail partnerships at Drizly. “In order to do that, we needed to get a read on not only hard numbers, but also the attitudes and resources that are shaping owners’ and managers’ decision-making, short- and long-term, which was the mission and outcome of this first independent retailer study.”
Methodology: Drizly conducted an in-depth study of more than 200 adults who manage or own independent liquor stores during May 2019, including retailers both on and off the Drizly platform.