As summer came to a close, September sales reflected the month’s intersection at the changing of two seasons. Ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails continued to post strong year-over-year (YOY) and month-over-month share growth, and tequila experienced strong gains over Labor Day weekend, as both categories have throughout the summer. But with seasonal shifts come new trends, like a shift towards mid-week purchasing and an increase in cider share. 

Category Growth Led By RTDs, Hard Kombucha, and Gin

As fall set in, the RTD cocktail category remained among Drizly’s fastest-growing categories, experiencing the highest year-over-year share of all categories in September. After dominating summer share growth, the question remains: Will RTD cocktails continue their ascent as temperatures cool?

“As weather begins to change in parts of the country and days become shorter, it is possible this growth may slow slightly as consumers drink more inside, at home, and the convenience and portability of RTDs becomes less of a factor,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. “However, as innovation and new products within the category continue to be introduced, we do not see RTDs going anywhere.”

Though hard kombucha still comprises a small share of total sales on Drizly, it saw significant year-over-year growth. “Its growth rate is a sign towards a potentially meaningful trend in the beer alternative category,” adds Paquette.

September also saw strong year-over-year share increases for gin, likely driven by the overall growth of the liquor category. Growth has also been bolstered by new brand availability with 50 percent YOY growth in the number of brands on Drizly. “The increase in gin brands available on Drizly points to new product offerings, particularly craft brands in the gin category,” says Paquette.

Gains and Losses Over Labor Day Weekend

The unofficial end of the summer, Labor Day weekend experienced the biggest sales spike on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, which was up 24 percent over average sales on the Sundays leading up to Labor Day.

As they did all summer, RTD cocktails posed the largest share growth within the liquor category over Labor Day weekend. The subcategory’s share grew 108 percent, from 2.4 to 5 percent of liquor share, likely stealing some of that share from the vodka category, which saw a 26 percent decrease in share compared to Labor Day weekend 2019. “Many RTDs are vodka-based and offer a direct alternative to vodka-based cocktails,” says Paquette. Vodka, however, still represented a strong share of liquor sales over the weekend, comprising 24.7 percent of spirits category share.

Tequila also proved to play a significant role over Labor Day weekend, growing its share of liquor sales by 12 percent compared to Labor Day weekend last year. “Tequila has solidified its role as a bar cart staple,” says Paquette. Both rosé and Champagne/sparkling wines experienced gains as well, each growing share by eight percent year over year; rosé accounted for 14.7 percent of Labor Day weekend wine share, while Champagne/sparkling wines accounted for 19 percent of wine share.

Within the beer category, hard seltzer once again was a strong category driver, with White Claw holding its position as the top-selling hard seltzer brand. But hard seltzer wasn’t the only beer subcategory to experience gains this year; IPAs grew 23 percent in beer share YOY. “It makes a strong case for the position of traditional, craft beer styles in the overall category despite growth in alternative categories like hard seltzer,” says Paquette.

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Regional Spotlight: Bronx, New York

New York City has always been a strong market on Drizly however in September, sales in the Bronx surged, resulting in it becoming the fastest-growing market on Drizly. “The demand is there. The number of stores available in the Bronx doubled from 2019 to 2020,” says Paquette, “providing customers in the market with a wider selection of products available to purchase on Drizly.”

The Top 10 subcategories in the Bronx vary dramatically from nationwide best-sellers. For instance, Cognac is the third-best selling subcategory in the Bronx but does not rank within the Top 10 nationally. Additionally, there are no beer subcategories within the Bronx’s top 10 subcategories — not even hard seltzer, which ranks fifth nationally. 

Drizly’s Best-Selling Subcategories in the Bronx

  1. White wine
  2. Red wine 
  3. Cognac
  4. Silver / Blanco tequila 
  5. Vodka
  6. Scotch 
  7. Flavored vodka 
  8. Rosé wine 
  9. Bourbon 
  10. Prosecco

Product Breakouts Within Wine, Beer, and Spirits

September sales data indicated interesting product breakouts within each of the wine, beer, and spirits categories. Within the wine category, four of the top five wine varieties on Drizly were Italian last month, suggesting that consumers are increasingly seeking out Italian wines. This could indicate that more than six months into Covid-19 impacts, consumers are looking to explore through their wine glasses since they can’t physically travel. “As travel continues to be restricted, particularly internationally, consumers may be seeking out new flavors and varieties through their wine choices,” says Paquette.

In tandem with the strong year-over-year share growth for gin in September, two gin brands — Roku Japanese Gin and Empress Gin — were among last month’s breakout spirits products.

Seasonal preference shifts resulted in two cider brands, Schilling Cider and Golden State Cider, experiencing breakout growth in the beer category. At the same time, cider gained one percent share month-over-month within the category, reinforcing the subcategory’s popularity in the fall despite so many new alternative entrants.

Customer Insights: Mid-Week Purchasing Increases

Compared to August, consumers have shifted more of their purchasing to weekdays rather than weekends. In September, Tuesday through Friday purchases grew in share month-over-month, while Saturday and Sunday purchases lost share. The highest day-of-week share shifted from Saturday to Friday, which comprised 21.05 percent of all orders last month.

“Covid has shifted the way consumers socialize,” says Paquette. “In September, as summer changed into fall and the weather became cooler in parts of the country, the increase of mid-week purchases could be a result of consumers spending more time indoors, leading to more casual mid-week drinking occasions.” Additionally, the average order value increased in September, indicating that consumers might be stocking up mid-week on beverages that will carry them through to the weekend.