Alcohol sales around St. Patrick's Day expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels

Retailers could see an increase in private label alcohol sales ahead of the March 17 holiday.
Zachary Russell
Associate Editor
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Good news for private alcohol brands: In-store sales of alcoholic beverages around St. Patrick’s Day are expected to top pre-pandemic levels, according to new research from Catalina. The shopper research leader said that most packaged liquor categories are expected to rise as more people host and attend parties this year on the March 17 holiday.

“It makes sense that sales of adult beverages were up in 2021 compared to the last pre-pandemic St. Patrick’s Day holiday since many public gathering places last year still faced COVID restrictions,” said Sean Murphy, chief data & analytics officer for Catalina. “Add to that, many people were still uncomfortable gathering indoors – and they weren’t keen on drinking or dining outdoors at the tail end of Winter – hence many chose to celebrate at home.”

The alcoholic beverage segment is also growing with help from private label brands, though not as much as the non-alcoholic drink market. According to recent data from PipeCandy, the size of the U.S. alcoholic beverage market is estimated to be $237 billion in the year 2022, growing at a CAGR of 3.7%

According to speakers at last year’s Store Brands Industry Forum on Beverages, drinks other than beer and wine have dominated the own brand alcohol category. In the private label beer category, retailers like Rouses Market and The Giant Company have partnered with local breweries to fuel their own brand alcohol sales.

St. Patrick's Day data

Catalina said that with panic buying starting in March 2020 as COVID-19 lockdowns began, in-store alcohol sales around St. Patrick’s Day increased. One year later, alcohol sales in most categories declined on a percentage basis vs. 2020, but they still posted a 20% increase overall compared to the last “regular” St. Patrick’s Day celebrated in 2019. Pre-mixed cocktails, however, are experiencing an ongoing sales boom.

Catalina predicts St. Patrick’s Day week in 2022 will be comparable to 2021. For comparison, alcohol sales for Super Bowl week this year were down about 2% vs. Super Bowl week last year. However, compared to the same pre-pandemic period in 2019, alcohol sales continue to be higher. For this reason, Catalina estimates St. Patrick’s Day week this year will be 5-15% higher than 2019 levels, with beer leading the way as the most sold product.

“Here we are two years into the pandemic, with more than 77% of the country having received at least one vaccine dose, CDC masking guidelines easing, and restaurants and bars back operating again with few restrictions in most places,” said Murphy. “With the National Retail Federation’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Survey showing that 19% of respondents plan to celebrate at a bar or restaurant this year – compared to 10% a year ago – 25% of respondents are still planning to host or attend larger private gatherings, compared to 21% last year. That’s why we anticipate in-store liquor sales this year will still be higher than 2019, even with a corresponding uptick at bars and restaurants."