Off-licence sales have “pretty much settled down” since the height of lockdown as people get used to life under coronavirus restrictions.
The first four weeks of lockdown in March saw people in Ireland spending€158m on alcohol in off-licences and supermarkets – a 40% increase on the same period in 2019.
On Down to Business this morning, Bobby Kerr was joined by three leading off-licence owners to get a taste of what business is currently like for the nation’s off-licences.
Gary O’Donovan, Chair of the National Off-Licence Association (NOFFLA) and Managing Director of O’Donovan’s Off-Licence Group in Cork said it has been a “topsy-turvy” year in the industry.
“Overall, sales were obviously very brisk at the start during lockdown when pubs and restaurants closed etc,” he said.
“There was an initial brisk period for a couple of months but it has all pretty much settled down since then with people going back to work gradually and people settling down into the new normal and business is pretty much normalised now.”
He said there has been a surge in online sales, especially in the wine market, and said many customers would choose their off-licence over the supermarket.
“We have gotten new customers over the last few months that maybe avoided the large crowds in the supermarkets and started coming to the more local, smaller off-licences,” he said.
“Then they are finding that there are people there who have knowledge and can help them find what they are looking for.
“So, we have found it is a good time for recruiting new customers that are looking for quality advice and quality product from our trained staff.”#
Padraig Sweeney, Owner of Sweeney’s D3 Off License and Café said craft beer is now a “massive growing space” – but the surge in popularity of the ‘quarantini’ was a bit of a surprise.
“We really had to chase our tails on making sure we had all the stock in that people wanted for the cocktails and their quarantinis,” he said.
“People were missing what they were getting in the pubs so they wanted to recreate that at home.
“So, we have had to completely overhaul our spirit selection and we have a massive amount of all sorts of cocktail making equipment and the different spirits you need to go into your quarantini.”
He said he is optimistic for the future of the trade even if “nobody really knows what is coming down the tracks.”
“We are in a really residential area,” he said. “We have lots of regular and local customers so I am anxious about what is going to happen but I think we have made enough changes and the work we did to change the business is benefiting us and with people working from home, hopefully that will be good for us but we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Molloys Liquor Stores
Meanwhile, Richard Molloy, Managing Director of the Molloy Group, said the increased popularity of home entertaining is “definitely going to continue” past the pandemic.
“People have learned skills like making these cocktails and stuff that they now want to invite people over to taste,” he said.
“Right now, we can’t even do that but in a few months or a year, whenever we can, people will want to bring people into their homes to entertain and maybe they have realised that entertaining at home can be as fun and enjoyable as going into town.”
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