New data from Roy Morgan shows online purchases of packaged alcohol rose quickly during the early and middle parts of 2020 before declining gently into year-end.

While nearly six million Australians bought packaged alcohol in an average seven days over the course of the year, more than one in 10 of these buyers (11.3 per cent) bought their alcohol online. This number more than tripled the 2019 figure of 3.5 per cent online buys, an increase of almost eight percentage points.

Michele Levine, Roy Morgan’s CEO said the COVID-19 pandemic saw people flock to online shopping for their goods, and retailers should be working to maintain their online channels.

“The last year has seen unprecedented changes to the way Australians interact and go about their daily life forced by strict lockdowns enforced nation-wide during March – May 2020 and on several other occasions since then to deal with localised outbreaks of the virus,” she said.

“The retail industry has been one of the hardest hit with a huge drop in retail sales in April 2020 (down 17.7 per cent month-on-month) during the nationwide lockdown but then a huge rebound in the months that followed as the Government pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into Australians’ pockets over the last year. The most prominent stimulus was the JobKeeper wage subsidy which is due to end in the next fortnight at the end of the month.

“Hospitality businesses were hardest hit with the forced closure of restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels during the lockdown and restrictions on dining during other periods. The closure of these businesses for extended periods forced Australians to purchase these goods from supermarkets and other food and liquor outlets.

“Although liquor stores were able to stay open throughout the lockdowns there was a definite impact on how Australians bought their packaged alcohol in 2020 compared to 2019. To be sure, most Australians who bought packaged alcohol in 2020 (88.6 per cent) bought alcohol from a store, but this was down almost 6 per cent points from 2019.

“Taking up the slack was the fast-increasing proportion of Australian packaged alcohol buyers going online for their liquor purchases, up nearly 8 per cent points to 11.3 per cent for the year. It’s true the proportion buying online peaked at 15.4 per cent in the September quarter 2020, but even during the relatively restriction-free December quarter 2020 a sizeable 12.0 per cent were still buying online – up nearly 10 per cent points on 2019.”

Levine added: “Perhaps surprisingly those packaged alcohol buyers aged 35-49 (13.2 per cent) are the most likely to have bought alcohol online during 2020, just ahead of their younger peers aged 25-34 (12.8 per cent) and 18-24 (12.5 per cent). People in Capital Cities (12.8 per cent) were more likely than those in Country Areas (8.3 per cent) to buy packaged alcohol online but there was negligible difference between men (11.8 per cent) and women (10.5 per cent).

“The question surrounding the liquor market in particular will be whether the online sales of liquor hold up at or near the levels of late 2020 or decline further over the course of this year back towards their pre-COVID-19 level of only 3.5 per cent of packaged alcohol buyers.

“Liquor outlets that have successfully sold their products via online channels over the past year will be hoping Aussie packaged alcohol buyers keep up with their online purchases as the average spent buying liquor online in a week is $124 compared to only $71 when buying in store – a difference of over $50.”

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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