In its recently-published report on global trends in the drinks industry, IWSR makes it pretty clear that the future of off-trade alcohol retailing will be online. In their relative infancy online channels are revolutionising the industry, states the report, “e-commerce sales are rapidly gaining traction across the globe, creating a new frontier for beverage alcohol sales. “A new tech-savvy generation of consumers are turning their back on traditional retail, opting for the convenience and simplicity of ordering online. The speed and ease of service provided by on-demand delivery platforms such as Drizly in the US or Bevy in the UK is one of the fundamental drivers of online purchases.”
A sizeable proportion of those becoming involved in online alcohol sales are mail-order companies who’ve simply seen the light and moved online, but their marketing tool is now so much more powerful and influential. Reflecting this, consumers have become increasingly comfortable with online purchasing where they can peruse a greater range of product. Last year a report from Nielsen and analytics firm Profitero found that as many as one in five UK consumers had bought alcohol online.
For independent off-licences here struggling to survive today, such a prospect is not encouraging, but the solid advance of online purchasing can’t be denied and shouldn’t be ignored. Online purchasing is used for everything from baubles to bottles of gin and boxes of groceries. Apart from the international behemoths such as Amazon and Alibaba, our ‘local’ multiples offer home deliveries for online orders and demand will grow every day as part of the ‘internet of things’.
Last November the Revenue Commissioners warned, “While a case of wine for sale online at €60 might look like a great deal, if the price is low, tax and duty have probably not been paid and Revenue may seize the wine on arrival”. Two years before this, the National Off-Licence Association warned, “Many of these websites’ Unique Selling Point is that their product is cheaper than its Irish equivalent – primarily due to these companies’ non-adherence to European taxation law”. Apart from its natural growth curve, our high alcohol tax economy can only be encouraging online alcohol retailing’s rude health.