Beverage alcohol retailers were concerned about the possibility of lagging sales this year, in the wake of historical high sales in 2020 and 2021 due the Covid pandemic. “Premium wine and super-premium spirits continue to drive sales growth at Twin Liquors,” says David Jabour, president of Austin, Texas-based Twin Liquors. “Sales have moderated compared to the prior two years, but they are trending higher than anticipated.”
Some Covid-fueled trends remained strong this year, while others appear to be tapering off. “E-commerce sales have subsided, and consumers are increasingly opting for an in-store shopping experience,” Jabour says. “Many consumers are choosing to celebrate and socialize at home.”
Beverage alcohol retail sales got off to a slow start but gained momentum. “The first half of this year we were going up against very large numbers from 2021,” says Dustin Mitzel, CEO of Happy Harry’s Bottle Shops in Fargo and Grand Forks, North Dakota. “We were down the first half of the year but have since come back. We should finish the year even over 2021.”
Retailers faced significant financial hurdles this year. “The sheer amount of price and cost changes was something I have never seen in my 27 years in the industry,” Mitzel says. “Other challenges included managing increased freight costs from out-of-state to in-state and working through out-of-stock issues that carried over from 2021 into a large part of 2022. Hopefully all three issues will continue to get better into 2023.”
In the meantime, top-selling wine brands at Twin Liquors in 2022 included La Marca Prosecco ($18 a 750-ml.), La Crema Chardonnay ($17), and Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Champagne ($65). Tito’s ($20), Crown Royal ($30), and Jack Daniels ($26) led spirits sales for the Texas retailer. Michelob Ultra ($9 six-pack of 12-ounce cans), Modelo Especial ($7.69 a six-pack of 12-ounce cans), and Dos Equis Lager Especial ($16 a 12-pack of 12-ounce cans) topped beer sales.
Other growth leaders at Twin Liquors include Josh Cellars ($8 a 750-ml. for the Chardonnay to $20 for the North Coast Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon), The Prisoner ($23 for the Unshackled Sauvignon Blanc to $59 for the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon), Casamigos Tequila ($59 a 750-ml. for the Reposado), and Lalo Blanco Tequila ($50). The hard seltzer category, however, has become oversaturated. “The proliferation of hard seltzers is substantial, but sales in the category are led by a compact number of brands,” Jabour says.
At Happy Harry’s in North Dakota, best-selling wine brands in 2022 included Barefoot ($5.97 a 750-ml.), Franzia ($13.97 to $15.97 a 5-liter box), and Dark Horse ($6.95 a 750-ml.). In spirits, High Noon ($17.97 an eight-pack of 12-ounce cans), Captain Morgan Spiced rum ($23.97 a 1.75-liter), and Tito’s ($23.97 a 1.75-liter) led sales. In beer, top-sellers were Busch Light ($23.07 a 30-pack of 12-ounce cans), Bud Light ($20.97 for 24-pack of 12-ounce cans), and Coors Light ($20.97 a 24-pack of 12-ounce cans).
Heading into 2023, Twin Liquors’ Jabour is confident that the off-premise will continue to be strong. “Sales volumes in the beverage alcohol retail tier will remain stable despite the prospect of economic headwinds,” he says.
In North Dakota, Mitzel is cautiously optimistic. “If inventory availability continues to improve, price increases slow down, and all internal costs continue to moderate, we should be better able to plan more strategically and see sales growth,” he says. “The last couple of years have been so volatile. It seems all we have been doing is reacting to what has been thrown at us on a seemingly daily basis and making sure we are making the best business decisions.”
Indeed, lessons have been learned. “The chaos of Covid taught us that some of the things we adjusted to because there was no other option turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” Mitzel says. “It will be a balance of allowing ourselves to adapt quickly to an ever-changing alcohol retail world, while still incorporating a somewhat traditional strategic plan.”