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Online Wine Sales Are Soaring Amid Coronavirus Lockdown: ‘A Month Bigger Than Christmas’

Online wine sales are soaring amid coronavirus lockdown

3/30/2020 7:58:00 AM

Online wine sales are soaring amid coronavirus lockdown

Online wine sales are surging with homebound drinkers stockpiling bottles.

“As people find themselves in these unusual circumstances,” explains Vivino founder and CEO Heini Zachariassen. “It’s great that we have the ability to do online commerce. Without it, a lot of businesses, like wine merchants and wineries would be in a much tougher spot.”

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Vivino notes that relative to the $300 billion-plus wine industry, e-commerce has never quite taken off. But with drinkers sheltered at home, wine lovers are ordering in bulk. Brian Smith, COO and co-founder of Winc, seconds this: “Work from home and social distancing are accelerating at-home consumption and the broader adoption of e-commerce in wine. Until now, the category has typically lagged behind other consumer categories.”

On a smaller scale,Gold Medalwine club, an independent wine club curating small-production California wines, has seen sales skyrocket. “We have seen a whopping $517,800 increasein revenue during the last 28 days versus the previous 28 days,” explains owner David Chesterfield. “That’s a 200%+ increase.”

He also notes that average revenue per sale is up 250%. New customer acquisition is up a modest 26%, so the majority of the increase is from existing customers.Kelly Dorrance, co-owner ofReeve Wines, has been hustling to flip their family-owned business online, to much success. “

This was Reeve’s best week of online sales ever, and a true lifesaver. Thanks to online and phone sales, we've been able to keep our three employees on the payroll, which is a huge priority for us.”The vineyard is offering free same-day local delivery in the Bay Area in an effort to go head-to-head with Amazon. Her husband, the winemaker, has been delivering shipments in the back of his truck. “Let’s see Jeff Bezos jump in a truck and deliver your hand sanitizer!” she laughs.

Much of Reeve’s success is built on years of relationships with clients. When the brand launched online shopping, they called and emailed customers with the news. “Our x-factor and our number one priority has always been our intimate relationship with our clients,” Dorrance explains. “We were able to tap into our customer relationships now because we prioritized it before. We have been reaching out to all of our members via phone and personal emails which has been a great connection point even when we don’t make a sale. And people love the—albeit distant—human connection they're getting with the call or smile during the drop-off.”

Some brands can’t rely on consumer recognition. “For a new wine brandlaunched two tasting rooms in April and July of 2019, the tasting room closures are devastating,” explains Kim Busch, owner ofFolded Hills Winery. “Our budding business was shuttered overnight.”

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Busch and team worked 16-hour days to drum up new sales channels. Now, they are offering free home delivery, no-touch curbside pick-up and are launching paid social media ad campaigns.In response, there has been a definite uptick in sales and website traffic. “Interestingly, sales are coming in from many parts of the country as well as a new local business,” she adds.

Beau Joie Champagne’s Deitelbaum has noticed a broadened customer base as well.“Inquiries are coming through social media, asking if we can ship to everyone from Maine to Montana,” he says. Despite the tumultuous time, consumers are still purchasing Champagne to celebrate life’s milestones. “People are trying to up their experiences with great meals, intimate gatherings, and Champagne.”

’s Kim Kramer has seen online sales explode, up 362% compared to this year. It’s needed—the family-owned grower shut their tasting room on March 18, but they’ve seen a drop in foot traffic over the last month. “Our tasting room sales are down 33% compared to last year over the same time period.”

Nevertheless, online sales have jumped up from 5% of DTC sales to 24%. “We’ve sold more wine online in 2020 so far compared to all of 2019.”Over at California’sPriest Ranch Wines, marketing manager Melissa Jackson has seen an uptick of sales, “but it about evens out the lack of tasting room sales.”

Infinite Monkey Theorem Urban Winery saw online orders up 50%, and in the taproom, sales match in growth. In one hour on March 23, they pulled in $1,200 worth of sales. in the Russian River Valley has also seen sales surge. Sales in the second half of March are up 800% from the first half of March, and 500% from the same period last year. 

But that doesn’t mean it is all smooth sailing. “Many wholesale sales distributors are preventing their sales teams from making any personal presentations to accounts, and we are seeing distributors more cautious about the volume and timing of their inventory purchases,” explains Nancy Bailey, the winery’s general manager.

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“In the interim, we have shifted our wholesale sales focus to off-premise as grocery stores; club stores like Costco; independent retailers offering delivery service; and online retailers like Wine.com have been experiencing stronger than usual sales as consumers stock up to shelter in place.”

The winery has also pivoted to offering educational content, like sommelier-moderated virtual tastings.But is the growth in sales caused by alarmed consumers stocking up? Nielsen noted that large pack sizes of wine (+53%) and canned wines (+95%) are performing particularly well, indicating that consumers are hoarding away wine to help them weather the storm. 

“For the week ending March 14, when many consumers were stocking up on perishables, cleaning products and toilet paper, total consumer goods grew by 40% in Nielsen all U.S. outlet channels,” explains Danelle Kosmal, vice president of beverage alcohol at Nielsen. “To me, this is an indication that beverage alcohol is important to consumers, but other consumer goods categories are being prioritized, at least for now. As more and more on-premise locations close, I think we will continue to see off-premise sales for beer, wine and spirits grow even more, and closing the gap with other consumer goods."

When bans lift and life starts pacing back to normal,Deitelbaumexpects wine sales to continue to thrive. “Celebrations, birthdays, bridal showers, weddings missed will now happen, conventions will be rescheduled and people will want to feel good after so much negative news day after day,” she says.

Gary Farrell agrees. “I don’t believe that the crisis will alter our desire for interpersonal connection – the joy of sharing conversation with friends and family over a delicious meal and a terrific bottle of wine (or two).” Read more: Forbes »

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