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Alcohol sales fall for first time since start of pandemic

For the first time in a year, retail alcohol sales have declined. Last March, when bars and restaurants across the country were forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic, retail alcohol sales surged by 55% as people rushed to stockpile beer, wine, and liquor.

According to CNN, new data from Nielsen shows that total sales were down by 1.9% for the week ending March 13. Despite the first week-to-week decline in sales in over a year, alcohol sales are still up by 20% to 30% this month compared to March 2019.

The company said that wine sales were down by 8%, and spirit sales were flat. While beer sales saw a slight increase, they were boosted by spiked seltzers. If spiked seltzers were not counted in beer sales, they would have seen a decline last week as well.

One reason for the decline is that bars and restaurants are beginning to reopen as strict lockdown measures are relaxed. While Nielsen doesn't track on-premise sales, the research firm expects to see retail alcohol sales continue to decline as more establishments open their doors again.

"We have officially surpassed one year of drastic shifts in consumer and shopper behaviors resulting from the pandemic in the United States. At this time last year, alcohol volume experienced massive shifts from the on-premise to off-premise," Danelle Kosmal, vice president of beverage alcohol at NielsenIQ, said in a statement.

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