Drizly, the nation’s largest online alcohol marketplace, released its first-ever comprehensive monitor of America’s independent alcohol store owners and managers, providing a backstage view of local bricks-and-mortar alcohol retailing in all aspects. Among key findings are a marked 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 tried-and-true in-store events to match growing influence of millennials.
Drizly’s first annual study, conducted among retailers who are on alcohol e-commerce platforms, and others who aren’t, posed both quantitative and qualitative questions in order to reveal not just key numbers but also the attitudes shaping business decision-making.
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.
Five key findings
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 percent) reported higher sales in 2018 compared to 2017, only 42 percent 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 percent), while trend reports rank fourth (14 percent). 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 percent of respondents) putting a thorn in rosé’s side (17 percent), in beer, it’s still IPA all day for growth (42 percent) and in spirits, the bourbon boom shows no signs of letting up (40 percent) — at least not in retailers’ minds.
Marketing has gone social. Somewhat surprisingly, 70 percent of retailers cited social media as the most effective marketing tactic for making and retaining customers, ahead of in-store events (64 percent) and offering delivery (62 percent). It may indicate the growing influence of millennials in business planning.
CBD’s impact: jury is out. Less than one third (32 percent) of independent retailers said that CBD-infused beverages stand a chance to meaningfully grow business, while 22 percent 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,” said 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.”