Are people simply drinking their way through the uncertain economy? My recent weekend trip to a wine and spirits superstore would lead you to believe they are. As I walked through the mammoth building which was packed wall to wall with people on a Saturday afternoon, I thought to myself – who says spending is down and people are hurting financially? Well, if they are, they certainly aren’t cutting back on the booze.
I love traveling to Total Wine in Delaware when I need to purchase a varied selection of wine or need to restock the liquor cabinet. While it might take us months and months (at last count around 18 months) to work our way through what we buy because we don’t drink that much or often, you cannot beat the prices and lack of sales tax on the finer bottles. Not to mention the selection gets the oenophile in me all riled up. Where else can you find an entire mega-aisle dedicated to one varietal and one wine region? Perhaps it is my attitude jaded by a lifetime held hostage with PA state controlled wine selections, but I find the place nirvana like.
What blew me away on this visit is that with all the nonstop media and person to person complaining about having no money, the economy tanking, and all that same old depressing fare, the place was packed with reams of people pushing carts filled to the brim with bottles. I mean big carts with lots of bottles and cases. I would love to know what the average per customer purchase is in that place.
Despite lagging sales in other categories, alcohol sales seem to be up in many areas of the country. Connecticut reports that the taxes it collects on sales of alcoholic beverages are up 4.7% for the fiscal year that ended in June. Pennsylvania also reported that sales of wine and liquor are up 4.7% for the 11 months ending in May, to $1.63 billion.
Says Danny Brager of The Nielsen Company, “A lot of consumers would still consider alcoholic beverages as an affordable indulgence.” According to Nielsen, more than 80% of people said they were spending the same amount on alcohol they were a year ago or more.
I get the indulgence factor rationale, but I have to believe there is also an increase in drowning one’s sorrows in a bad economy going on as well. LSJ Blogs point out in “Where do you buy your wine?”:
There’s good news for the wine industry: Tough times can lead some consumers to drown their sorrows.
That was the general conclusion Tuesday when the world’s biggest wine maker by volume, Constellation Brands Inc. of Fairport, N.Y., reported a 50% increase in fiscal first-quarter net income.
“People drink when the economy is good, and they drink more when the economy is not so good,” said Mike Martin, a vice president at Constellation, a producer and marketer of wine, imported beer and spirits.
Some of the folks in the store with me were either having mega parties for the Labor Day Holiday or planning Katrina size drowning of their sorrows.
Let’s say you’re more like me. I am passionate about wine – every aspect of it. For 15+ years my partner and I have enjoyed touring wineries and educating ourselves on everything from tasting to viticulture. Should the economy put a crimp in our wine selections? Surely I can’t go hog-wild with off the wall purchases, but does that mean I have to trade in my “mature” palette for Two Buck Chuck? Not according to Deb Harnkess at Serious Eats who has something to say about “Drinking Good Wines During Rough Economic Times” and her three golden rules:
Tightening your belt and cutting back on your wine budget during economic hard times doesn’t have to be a curse or an unpleasant chore-it can be a blessing and an adventure. There are three golden rules for drinking good wine regardless of the economy: don’t get sucked into the lemming-like hysteria surrounding wines awarded 90 points or more by big wine magazines; think twice before you buy wine from pricey appellations with big reputations; and look for grapes less traveled.
To me that is a great frugal tip for ANY economy. One where you don’t have to sacrifice taste OR break the bank.
Perhaps wine and spirits is simply a recession proof industry. No matter how you slice it, though, it seems that folks are not willing to go frugal even in this economy when it comes to their alcoholic drinks.
Paula Gregorowicz, owner of The Paula G. Company, works with women who are ready to create their lives and businesses in a way that fits who they are rather than how they were told they “should”. Get the free 12 part eCourse “How to Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin” http://www.coaching4lesbians.com and start taking charge of your own success.