New Year’s Eve is normally all about stocking up and trading up, with consumers rushing to purchase sparkling wines and other beverages to help them ring in the coming year. While saying “good riddance” to 2020 provides reason to celebrate, pandemic restrictions such as bar closures and limits on private gathering sizes are certain to impact consumers’ buying behaviors this year.

“People are celebrating differently now,” says Kathryn Lehman, the director of account management at Drizly. “I think the top line here is to expect the unexpected.”

New Year’s Eve is typically Drizly’s biggest night of the year for both sales volume and order value. On Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019 sales were 87 percent higher than the average Tuesday in December. The average order value on New Year’s Eve increased 14.4 percent over the average order value throughout 2019. With the average Drizly order up 26 percent year-over-year in 2020 overall, the trend of booming sales is likely to continue. 

“Despite smaller gatherings, we expect to see higher order values on New Year’s Eve,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. “This has been the case for holiday occasions so far in the fourth quarter, such as the day before Thanksgiving. As customers ring in 2021, we anticipate the trading up that typically occurs on New Year’s Eve will play an even bigger role this year.”

Mike Provance, the CEO of New York-based 3×3 Insights, has noticed a similar shift. Rather than buying larger quantities of lower-priced bottles, as they did in the early months of the pandemic, shoppers are now purchasing smaller quantities of higher-end products. 

All of this points to strong sales heading into the final weeks of the year. However, surging virus cases across the country could change consumer demand and operational allowances at a moment’s notice. By stocking up on top-selling items, staffing up during daytime hours, and being flexible, retailers can navigate the uncertainties of New Year’s Eve 2020 to end the year on a profitable note.

Be Flexible and Adjust Operations

Since COVID-19 related stay-at-home regulations can change at a moment’s notice, store owners will need to adapt quickly to optimize sales. 

“We know of a dozen pandemic curfews in place today, and there could be new ones tomorrow,” says Lehman. “When this happens, stores have to cut back on their evening hours, and consumer buying behavior shifts to earlier in the day. Opening up earlier allows you to capture that demand.”

Expanding store hours and adding extra staff can help maximize sales and ensure smooth operations not only on New Year’s Eve itself but also on the days leading up to Dec. 31, when sales increase. On Dec. 30, 2019, sales were 16.7 percent higher than the average Monday in December.

In parts of the country where extreme weather conditions are common, Lehman advises retailers to build in extra time for deliveries. This is important not only for safety reasons, but also to maintain a high level of customer service — which could lead to more sales in 2021.

“New Year’s Eve is such a big day for us because we see a lot of new customers coming to the site,” says Lehman. “When a new customer shops at Drizly and receives a really stellar experience from that store, there’s an 80 percent chance that when that customer comes back to Drizly, they’re going to shop at the same store again.”

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Stock Top Products — Especially Champagne

Ahead of New Year’s Eve, Lehman recommends that retailers utilize Drizly reports to identify and stock up on their store’s top-selling items, as well as best sellers in their area that they don’t currently carry.

It’s also helpful to consider the most popular products from the previous year’s holiday. Wine was Drizly’s top-selling category on New Year’s Eve 2019, holding 47 percent of share (a six percent share increase over the 2019 average), followed by liquor at 38 percent of share. 

Unsurprisingly, Champagne and sparkling wine comprised Drizly’s best-selling subcategory overall, accounting for a 60 percent share of wine sales on New Year’s Eve and commanding five of the top six best-selling SKU positions. Within the sparkling wine subcategory, Champagne led sales at 60 percent of share, trailed by Prosecco (21 percent), sparkling rosé (nine percent), American sparkling wine (five percent), and Cava (three percent).

Drizly’s Top SKUs on New Year’s Eve 2019

  1. Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label Champagne 
  2. Tito’s Handmade Vodka 
  3. La Marca Prosecco 
  4. Dom Pérignon Vintage Champagne
  5. Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut Champagne
  6. Korbel Brut California Champagne
  7. White Claw Hard Seltzer Variety Pack
  8. Hennessy V.S Cognac 
  9. Bud Light 
  10. Casamigos Blanco 

Drizly’s Top Champagne and Sparkling Wine SKUs on New Year’s Eve 2019

  1. Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label Champagne 
  2. La Marca Prosecco
  3. Dom Pérignon Vintage Champagne 
  4. Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut Champagne
  5. Korbel Brut California Champagne 
  6. Mionetto Prosecco Brut 
  7. Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Champagne
  8. Freixenet Brut Cordon Negro Cava 
  9. Chandon Brut Sparkling
  10. Korbel Extra Dry California Champagne 

Despite celebrations looking a bit different this year, there’s no reason to think consumers will not pop the bottles of bubbly this year. In fact, retailers could see more consumers trading up on their sparkling wine options this New Year’s Eve. Despite a dip in Champagne sales early in the pandemic, they have rebounded tremendously.

“Brands like Veuve Clicquot and Möet & Chandon saw significant bumps,” says Provance, “with some Möet [SKUs] around the $60 price point more than doubling in dollar and unit sales.” Julia Coney, the manager at Wardman Wines in Washington, D.C., has also noticed an increase in sparkling wine sales in 2020, especially for Champagnes in the $50 to $60 range.  

“I believe more people are buying better bottles because of the pandemic, since we can’t celebrate the same way as before,” she says. And after a particularly tumultuous year that included both a pandemic and a presidential election, Coney adds, consumers are looking for reasons to raise a glass.