Holidays Spur Wine, Spirits Purchases

It probably comes as no surprise that consumers buy -- and drink -- considerably more of certain wines and spirits during the December holiday period than during other parts of the year, but just how much more, and who stands to benefit?

According to Danny Brager, VP beverage/alcohol group at Schaumburg, Ill.-based Nielsen, “During the week leading up to Christmas, U.S. consumers buy wine and spirits at a rate 67 percent greater than they do during an average week in the year, and in the week leading up to New Year, that elevated purchasing rate continues – 39 percent higher than an average week in the year.”

Brager shared the following information on wines:

  • U.S. consumers are much more inclined to open up their pocketbooks during the holidays. While overall wine sales are 67 percent higher in that week leading up to Christmas compared with an average week, that jumps up to 124 percent higher for wines priced at $15-$20, and 180 percent higher for wines $20 and higher
  • Rieslings and Pinot Noir lead the way, with sales increases compared with an average week in the year 107 percent and 74 percent higher, respectively -- even more of a jump than the wine category overall.
  • By country, wines from Germany, tied to that Riesling jump, followed by France and Italy, exhibit the greatest holiday sales leap compared with an average week, while wines from Oregon pop the most when looking at major U.S. wine-producing states.

Meanwhile, in the realm of spirits:

  • The positive “spirit” of the holidays also affects liquor purchasing patterns when it comes to price: Spirits from the ultra-premium (average price of around $35) and premium (average price close to $20) range benefit the most compared with an average week -- at 162 percent higher and 123 percent higher, respectively, versus a 68 percent increase for the total category.
  • Liqueurs served on the rocks or in mixed drinks are way out in front, with sales levels three times higher than those during an average week. After that, Irish whiskey sales are more than two times higher, with scotch, brandy and cognac next up, all experiencing lifts about double what they are during an average week.
  • Unsurprisingly, spirits with “a gift” enclosed, like a set of drink glasses packaged with the bottle, are almost off the chart, selling at a rate 8x higher during the week leading to Christmas.

In the week between Christmas and New Year, consumers continue to buy more upscale (read pricier) products. Further, within spirits, cognacs sell almost double their normal weekly rate, compared with a 39 percent increase for the spirits category as a whole. And over on the wine side, the “pop” of corks to celebrate New Year’s is clearly heard, with sparkling wine sales five times higher in that single week compared with an average week during the year.

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