Luxury liquor sales have grown at the fastest rate in years as US consumers look to escape the lockdown blues with a drink or two.

It’s part of a trading-up trend

The pattern is part of a wider trend to trade up during the pandemic as consumers switch how they spend, indulging in pricier products to make up for a lack of out-of-home treats. This extends to more expensive household cleaners, spaghetti and paper towels, according to research firm IRI. Luxury retailers also report buoyant sales of high-end handbags and jewellery.

Drinking by the numbers

  • Even before the pandemic, Americans preferred to drink at home, with four out of every five alcoholic drinks bought from shops, rather than in bars and restaurants. That trend has picked up.
  • US distillers’ revenue was 7.7% up last year, reaching $31.2 billion, the highest sales for at least 40 years. Many distillers benefited from a change in the law in several states allowing bars to offer cocktails via home delivery or click-and-collect.
  • Sales of US whiskey brands were up 8.2%, cognac 21%, and combined sales of tequila and mezcal up 17%. E-commerce alcohol sales also experienced strong growth, with online retailer Drizly, for example, reporting annual sales growth of 350% from a year earlier.

Key takeaway

The question is whether the trend towards luxury drinks in the home extends post-pandemic. Pernod Ricard SA’s North America head, Ann Mukherjee, thinks the challenge for bars to win back custom may be tough: “Consumer palates have opened up, and many have figured out how to make cocktails at home. The bar for bars has become a lot higher.” 

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Sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff