The majority of independent off-licences have stayed open to try and ensure supplies of beer, wine & spirits for their customers.
However, in the week to 8th March, Nielsen found that at just 2.7% alcohol appears to be growing more slowly than the rest of the market eg fruit and vegetable produce (up 6.9%), bakery (up 4.7%), frozen (up 4.9%), chilled (up 7.3%) and confectionery (up 5.7%).
Karen Mooney, Ireland Market Leader at Nielsen commented, “It’s likely that we will start to see stronger growth in these categories in the coming weeks as people will have plentiful supply of pantry necessities and may resume purchasing some luxury items”.
At Blackrock Cellar, Joel Durand told Drinks Industry Ireland that there had been “a degree of panic buying” which had levelled out following St Patrick’s Day itself although when the schools closed there was an upsurge.
“I’d say we’re back to normal sales-wise,” he stated, adding that he’d set up Deliveroo for home deliveries while customers could also come and pick up from the shop.
In Cork, National Off-Licence Association of Ireland Chairman Gary O’Donovan owns the O’Donovan Group of off-licences.
He describes business since the pubs closed as being “brisk, but no records are being broken”.
Purchasing, he said, had been “steady and spread out during the day with people tending to do their shopping during daylight hours”.
And the purchases may have been larger than normal.
The average purchase value has risen, he reported, adding that with the closure of the pubs supplies have arrived more quickly than would normally be the case from wholesalers.
“It would normally be three to four working days but due to the absence of the on-trade, delivery is now the following day,” he said, adding that, “People are coming to the small independent off-licence as they regard it as less dodgy than a busy supermarket in these times.
In Dublin’s Rathgar area the Vintry’s Evelyn Jones has seen a return to shopping locally.
“Because they’re not going out at all, any alcohol they’re consuming is coming from an off-licence,” she pointed out.
In Roscrea and Nenagh Pat Kelleher has two Carry Out off-licences.
Again, his outlets were busy for St Patrick’s Weekend with takings up 10-20% and as the coronavirus began to make itself felt there was a spike in sales.
“Now, however, the initial rush is over” he said, “and everybody has calmed down because this is going to go on for a while and people need to watch their shillings.”
He described the present atmosphere in Roscrea as “eerie”, with the general public “very jumpy – but the good thing about the independent off-licence is that we’re not dealing with huge numbers at once, they’re dribbling in in ones and twos”.
Elsewhere, BrewDog has launched a drive-through service in the UK using its Hop Drop app through which customers can now click and collect beer, food, spirits and cider from its bars and pick them up without leaving their car. It’s also launching with a 30% discount for all users and a 50% discount for National Health Seervice staff (on production of an NHS ID).