Like most things in 2020, Halloween looked a bit different this year. With bars closed and large gatherings off-limits due to pandemic restrictions, many would-be revelers held smaller gatherings at home. Despite a different consumer approach to celebrating Halloween, online beverage alcohol sales data indicate that consumers continued to toast the holiday — a good sign for holiday sales through the end of the year. 

With pandemic protocols continuing into the winter months, insights from Drizly’s Halloween weekend sales data can help retailers tap into consumer behavior trends and prepare for holidays throughout the month of December.

Purchasing Upticks and Category Shifts

Over Halloween weekend, Drizly sales were 19 percent higher than the average sales for the previous four weekends in October. On Halloween itself, sales grew 26.4 percent over the average for the month’s preceding Saturdays. The average order value also grew by 3.6 percent on Halloween compared to the previous four Saturdays in October.

“Though celebrations look different in 2020 with social distancing restrictions in place, events and occasions will still impact consumer purchasing behavior and drive sales,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. She points to examples from holidays earlier in the pandemic, such as St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo, which drove sales spikes despite different socializing norms than years prior. 

Reflective of overall sales in 2020, which saw liquor overtake wine as Drizly’s top-selling category, spirits outsold wine during the Halloween weekend. Compared to Halloween 2019, liquor share showed significant year-over-year gains, increasing from 37 percent in 2019 to 45 percent in 2020. Over the same period, wine’s category share decreased from 38 percent to 32 percent, and beer’s share declined from 23 percent to 20 percent. 

“Liquor sales spiked this holiday weekend, similar to the trend we have seen throughout the pandemic,” says Paquette. “With more people celebrating at home, people were likely making their own drinks and cocktails on Halloween.”

Compared to October overall, on Halloween weekend tequila and red wine saw the greatest subcategory share increase. Silver/blanco tequila led the liquor category, increasing from 8.7 percent to 10.2 percent sales share. “The tequila category, in particular, continues to see growth in share, and even more so during occasions like Halloween,” says Paquette.

For the wine category, red wine stood out, increasing from 34.9 percent to 36 percent sales share, while white wine share dropped from 27.9 percent to 25.9 percent. Likewise, Champagne’s share dropped from 11 percent to 10.2 percent.

In the beer category, hard seltzer’s share increased slightly over Halloween weekend compared to the rest of October, from 22 percent to 23.2 percent. Cider’s share also grew slightly over the holiday weekend, from 5.5 percent to 5.9 percent.

Insights for Winter Holidays

As one of Q4’s first major beverage alcohol purchasing occasions, Halloween can lend insights ahead of December 2020 purchasing. Pinot Noir proved to be a consumer favorite within the wine category over Halloween weekend, with Meiomi Pinot Noir jumping up two spots from its overall October sales position to become the seventh-best selling wine on Drizly on Halloween. La Crema Pinot Noir also broke into the top 10 wine SKUs over Halloween weekend.

Among liquor brands, Espolòn Tequila Blanco was a winner, moving up from the number 10 spot during the entire month of October to number four over Halloween weekend. Hard seltzer continues to be a top seller in the beer category, with SKUs such as the White Claw Variety Pack No. 2 and Truly Berry Mix Pack gaining share over lagers like Miller Lite and Corona Extra over Halloween weekend.

As retailers consider which products to add to your inventories for the upcoming holiday season, Drizly’s 2019 sales data can also provide helpful insights.

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Top Five Best-Selling Wine SKUs, Week of Christmas 2019

  1. Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label Champagne 
  2. La Marca Prosecco
  3. Dom Pérignon Vintage Champagne 
  4. Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
  5. Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut Champagne

Top Five Best-Selling Liquor SKUs, Week of Christmas 2019

  1. Tito’s Handmade Vodka 
  2. Jameson Irish Whiskey 
  3. Bulleit Bourbon 
  4. Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka 
  5. Grey Goose Vodka 

Top Five Best-Selling Beer SKUs, Week of Christmas 2019

  1. White Claw Hard Seltzer Variety Pack
  2. Bud Light 
  3. Coors Light Lager 
  4. Corona Extra
  5. Miller Lite Lager Beer 

In addition to purchasing past holiday favorites, Drizly predicts that consumers will increase holiday purchases this year and seek out higher-end products. “We expect that smaller gatherings and limited on-premise celebrations will lead to increased average order values driven by trading up,” says Paquette, “particularly in the liquor category.” 

A recent Nielsen survey of 15,000 U.S. households also points to smaller holiday celebrations in 2020. When asked about their plans, seven in 10 respondents said their Thanksgiving gatherings would include six or fewer people this year. 

Because consumers are limiting in-person shopping trips, 25 percent of survey participants also said they plan to shop online for delivery or pickup, compared to 10 percent last year. With all of this considered, online beverage alcohol purchasing is poised to play a key role in the 2020 December holiday season.