Last year, compared with an average day, beer sales grew 174% on St Patrick’s Day and spirits sales rose 153%.
In fact one-third of 15,000 US consumers surveyed through Nielsen CGA’s On-Premise User Survey analysis said they visit a bar or restaurant on St Patrick’s Day, marking this a major bar/restaurant holiday, sitting just behind New Year’s Eve, the Super Bowl and St Valentine’s Day.
While the popularity of St Patrick’s Day may not surprise many, Nielsen CGA has uncovered new insights that bring to light significant opportunities for US bars and restaurants.
The beer beyond
During St Patrick’s Day last year, beer sales increased by 20% from the previous weekend, with pubs and bars seeing uplifts of 57% compared with dining locations, which saw an uplift of just 7%. Unsurprisingly, national stout sales rose significantly: up 141% versus the previous weekend.
In Chicago, stouts saw an uplift of 688% and in Boston, a historically Irish American city, stout sales jumped 355% from the previous week.
In looking across the country, Chicago was a major beer sales winner on St Patrick’s Day in 2018. On-trade establishments in Chicago (inclusive of everything from small neighbourhood bars and Irish pubs to restaurants and nightclubs) made, on average, $8,287 on beer sales alone. That’s 221% higher than the previous Saturday and up by over $5,180 on Boston bars which came in in second place with sales of about $3,100.
Irish Whiskey up too
But beer isn’t the only sales driver on St Patrick’s Day, points out Nielsen, “We continue to see growth opportunities in Irish whiskey. In fact, it’s the fastest-growing whiskey type across US bars and restaurants, generating almost $2.1 billion in sales over the last 52 weeks, representing an annual increase of 5.9%. In 2018, March was the strongest month for Irish whiskey, driving sales of $190 million, up 6% from the previous year and up 22% from the previous four-week period”.
Cider sales were also up by 46%.
St Patrick’s Day sales
St Patrick’s Day is also a day where drinking can (and often does) occur throughout the day.
“When we look at the different times of the day, brunch (9am-11am) showed the strongest growth for beer vs the previous weekend, particularly on St Patrick’s Day itself, when brunch beer sales surged 1,465%.
“Despite the growing prowess of brunch, Happy Hour still proves the most valuable day part for beer during St Patrick’s Day weekend. Although consumers visit bars and restaurants earlier on St Patrick’s Day, the mid-afternoon day part (3pm-5pm) drove an increase of 122% in sales and a 12% increase from the previous Saturday which highlights that consumers still wait for this part of the day to take advantage of the deals offered.
“This latest analysis of 2018’s St Patrick’s Day performance shows that it isn’t just beer that wins; establishments can win with consumers with other categories, too. For many, the key is to activate at the right time of day, with the right type of offering.
“In a time when experience is key” concludes Nielsen, “many consumers look to calendar moments such as St Patrick’s Day to visit a bar or restaurant.
“Having a well-stocked event calendar (and bar) can be a great driver of traffic into bars and restaurants.”
And despite being on a Sunday this year, Nielsen believed that the industry had every right to be optimistic that this year’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations would stretch across the whole weekend.
In the UK sales of Guinness, Murphy’s and Beamish were up 78% in the run-up to St Patrick’s Day according to shopping insight company Criteo, reports drinksBusiness.
“West Country city Bristol lead the charge after seeing sales rise 244%, with Dorset, only a stone’s throw away, clocking up sales of 144%. This list of top 20 regions for St Patrick’s Day was dominated by counties in the South of England – but London didn’t even make the top 10,” it stated, pointing out that apart from London (home to around a third of the UK’s Irish population), the more traditionally Irish-centric regions of Scotland did.