Retailers hit the ground in full stride this year with expectations of strong sales and an improved supply stream as they rush to fulfill curbside pick up and delivery orders. “During the holidays we averaged over 225 pick-ups a day, with a record number over 370 on Christmas Eve,” says Glen Knight, owner of The Wine House in Los Angeles.
Powerful growth in 2021 is expected to be led by Tito’s vodka ($35 a 1.75-liter), RTDs, hard seltzers, California wines, upscale Tequilas, and whiskies. “Tito’s is our best seller. Every time I look at the shelves it’s completely depleted and we have six rows of 1.75-liters and four rows of other sizes,” says Beth Freyvogel, co-owner and general manager of Arrow Wine & Spirits, which has two stores in Dayton and one in Mason, Ohio. “Bourbon is still cranking.”
With The Wine House closed to in-store customer traffic since last March, curbside pick-up and delivery are essential. “Our local messengers averaged 78 a day, with our high Friday, Dec 18, with over 120 deliveries,” Knight says. “This doesn’t include our Fed Ex shipments averaging over 350 a day, with Monday, Dec 21 our largest with over 600.”
Arrow Wine & Spirits continues experiencing strong curbside pick up orders. “Our curbside is though the roof,” says Freyvogel. “That is a trend we didn’t have before. We are doing about 20 a day and 110 a week.”
Arrow experienced approximately 15% sales growth in 2020. “We are hoping for another year of double-digit gains,” says Freyvogel says. “The California Cabernets and Pinot Noirs have been insane. We’ve a sold a lot of 2019 Jovino Pinot Noir ($15 a 750-ml.). With Cabernet, we’re killing it with 2018 Caymus Cabernet-Sauvignon ($90).”
Rosé sales, however, appear to be leveling. “We are getting a ton of closeout prices because it’s oversaturated,” Freyvogel observes. “At all times, we have a pretty decent rosé for $8 a 750-ml. that was $20-$30.”
Knight of The Wine House anticipates solid sales growth this year, but not like 2020. “Business will continue to grow, but not at last year’s pace,” he says. “We see sales in 2021 just above 5% over 2020. Last year we had December buying in April. That won’t happen again.”
Retailers are optimistic that supply issues will improve. “Many impulse buys from our distributors were selling out in just a few days,” Knight says. “We’ll see if the importers can get more inventory to the states. We are hoping the new administration will lighten the tariffs on imported wines of France, Spain, and Germany.”
Ohio retailers also have hope that issues aren’t forever. “We are still seeing about 20% of products unavailable, but we believe it will resolve itself in the upcoming months,” Freyvogel says.
At The Wine House, Knight plans to make website improvements, upgrade email campaigns, train his sales team on Zoom tastings, and add more classes. Freyvogel is considering creating an online ordering system at Arrow.
From coast to coast, meanwhile, home delivery orders face logistical challenges. “The hardest part was making sure someone was home at the time of delivery,” Knight says. “With so many deliveries, it was hard to coordinate delivery times with the clients’ schedules.”
In Westborough, Massachusetts, Ryan Maloney, owner of Julio’s Liquors, says curbside pick up will become huge. “As people realize they have to be there for delivery, more people are going to go towards curbside pick up,” he says. “Curbside pick up is going to be big. It’s more convenient.”