The days leading up to the end-of-year holidays are always some of the busiest for retailers. In 2022, for example, the days with the highest average order value on Drizly led up to Christmas: December 22, 23, and 21, respectively. By looking back at purchasing trends during the busy holiday season, retailers can gain insights that can be used to prepare for holidays and other occasions in 2023.

Major holidays and the weekends are often when consumers “basket build,” or prepare purchases ahead of typical days off. Orders and the average number of items purchased on Drizly increase leading up to Thanksgiving and peak on the Wednesday before the holiday, for example, and the same is true with Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. On a smaller but more regular basis, consumers tend to basket build Wednesday through Friday ahead of the weekend.

In 2022, Drizly orders started to climb earlier ahead of the holidays than during the prior year, and that was especially the case for new buyers. Other holidays and holiday weekends in Q1 like Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, President’s Day weekend, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day had similar earlier basket building patterns as the Q4 holidays.

Over the 2022 Q4 holidays, there was a seasonal boost in wine (particularly red wine and sparkling and Champagne subcategories) gift orders on Drizly. 

“In 2022, gift orders over-indexed on wine compared to standard orders with 50 percent share of gifts falling under wine compared to 37 percent of standard orders,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. “Gifts also over-index on liquor at 46 percent share versus 45 percent share for standard orders. Meanwhile, beer under-indexes for gifts at just three percent share compared to 16 percent of standard orders.”

The holiday season in 2022 saw higher average unit prices across all three major categories on Drizly. Liquor saw a 14 percent increase ($28.91 to $32.99), wine an 18 percent increase ($19.16 to $22.65), and beer a 3.7 percent increase ($15.33 to $15.90).

“The biggest takeaway retailers should know from this data is that consumers clearly shop differently when it comes to holidays and occasions compared to standard day to day shopping,” says Paquette. “They plan out their buys early, shop different categories and spend more overall—all of which retailers should consider when building marketing and merchandising plans for these holidays.”

Demographic Purchasing Differences

“Wine is declining across all generations,” says Scott Moore, the senior vice president of national accounts off-premise at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, noting that Gen Z is showing the largest decline. Data from Nielsen IQ shows that in the 52-week period ending in March 2022, overall wine sales decreased by 5.2 percent compared to the same time period. “I relate it to baseball,” says Moore. “Its greatest strength and weakness is tradition. It will maintain its foundation to the core consumer but rarely expand beyond them.”

Sparkling wine, including Champagne, however, appears to be an outlier. According to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis data, the volume of bubbly is on the rise and poised to continue its growth as consumers shift the occasions that they purchase sparkling wine.

According to IWSR consumer data, Gen Z purchasers tend to consume more vodka and tequila, while millennials tend to prefer vodka followed by similar rates for American whiskey and tequila, as well as relatively higher rates for Champagne and sparkling wine. Gen X and baby boomers tend to be stronger purchasers of still wine followed by vodka and American whiskey.

Looking Ahead to 2023 Holidays

While there isn’t a category as tied to a holiday as Champagne and sparkling wine is to New Year’s Eve, there are still notable trends. “Still wine is most prevalent during holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Easter, but also experience an uptick for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays,” says Adam Rogers, the research director at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.

On the spirits side, Rogers notes, “St. Patrick’s Day is the leading driver for Irish whiskey sales throughout the year and, similarly, Cinco de Mayo drives tequila consumption.” High-end and luxury-priced spirits like whiskey, Cognac, and tequila tick up with the increase in gifting around Christmas. “The refreshing profile of beer lends the category to over-index for sales on the warmer holidays of Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Fourth of July,” says Roger.

Moore adds that there are other big sales days for retailers to note, as well as particular category sales increases. In Q1, there’s the Super Bowl (with sales led by beer, ready-to-drink, and spirits) and Valentine’s Day (sales led by sparkling wine and Champagne, as well as rosé to a lesser extent). Q2 also has Easter (sparkling, white, and rosé wine) and Father’s Day (red wine). 

In the coming year, “holiday spending will be impacted by inflation whether it goes up or down,” says Moore. He adds that if discretionary spending goes down, so could trips to the store and the average price point of purchases—especially among people with lower incomes. Not all retailers will likely be impacted equally, however. “If inflation continues, mass merchandisers will benefit from gaining more high-income and premium shoppers,” including gaining more millennial and Gen-X customers. 

When it comes to beverage trends that showed strength in Q4 2022 and will continue into 2023, Moore points to two leaders: ready-to-drink cocktails will have increased floor space, and “better for you” products will continue to expand from its small base. 

By targeting demographic trends and preparing for the basket building days leading up to holidays and occasions, retailers can be more prepared to capitalize on sales and make informed stocking decisions.