‘Worst month on record’: virus sees alcohol sales plummet

Australia’s beer, wine and spirits industry has suffered its worst month in history, with the loss of $8.5 billion in revenue in April as the coronavirus pandemic forced pubs, clubs and bars to shut their doors.

Despite reports of liquor store stockpiling in March, the dire sales performance in April has crippled producers.

“April has been the worst month on record for sales of beer, wine and spirits,” Alcohol Beverages Australia CEO Andrew Wilsmore said in a statement on Sunday.

“We knew that the total loss of trade from pubs, bars, clubs, and restaurants was never going to be made up for by a brief, small surge in panic buying during the week people were concerned bottleshops would also close.”

The biggest category, beer saw a 44 per cent drop in April and cider saw the biggest decline at 61 per cent due to the loss of social occasions.

Small and medium sized wine producers who rely on restaurants as their main route to market reported losses of up to 70 per cent. While local distillers felt the impact of regional travel restrictions, with revenue declines of up to 80 per cent.

Spirits experienced a 21 per cent volume decline in April, while RTDs dropped 37 per cent, showing “both a tale of woe and resilience,” Wilsmore said.

The volume losses match data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) which shows the vast majority (85.6 per cent) of Australians are drinking responsibly during the pandemic shutdown. Most Australians’ behaviour is either unchanged or they are drinking less during the time of COVID-19.

The ABS data shows that 30 per cent of Australians are largely abstaining or not consuming alcohol; 47 per cent are drinking the same; and 10 per cent are drinking less. Only 14 per cent of Australians reported that their drinking had increased.

The shutdown also cost the industry almost half a million in hospitality jobs.

“At the peak of isolation measures, 441,400 jobs had been lost in hotels, pubs, clubs, restaurants, cafes, takeaway, coffee shops, accommodation hotels and casinos. This represents a loss of a third of their total workforce,” Wilsmore said.

The ABA is calling on the nation’s political leaders to have a “laser-like focus” on job creation and minimising regulatory and tax burdens to support the industry in coming out of the crisis.

“This will be vital to our successful revival so that we can continue to provide employment opportunities and future careers for young Australians,” Wilsmore said.


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