Before coronavirus, the business of buying booze online was considered a work in progress in many respects. Not because the technology wasn’t there, but due to the customer not buying into the idea. Why buy a bottle of whiskey online and hope it’s delivered in a timely manner when you could drive down the street? Once shelter-in-place and social distancing procedures took hold, its value was discovered.
Near the end of March, only alcohol delivery sites like Drizly, Minibar, Reserve Bar all reported record numbers. Since, Drizly, the largest player in the online booze delivery game, reported a 400 percent sales increase from its baseline.
Strictly speaking, these sites are not alcohol retailers, though. They work with retailers local to you and facilitate deliveries to your home. Because of the U.S.’s three-tiered alcohol distribution system — which, for almost every state, mandates producers may only sell to distributors, who may only sell to retailers, who may only sell to consumers — they can’t hold their own stock.
If these sites can facilitate the purchase and delivery of booze, why can’t the companies that make the booze do the same thing?
Launched mid-June, The Macallan became the first whisk(e)y label to sell products directly through its own website in the U.S. The Macallan Shop operates in a similar fashion to those alcohol delivery services, using Thirstie Inc.’s API to make it happen. Samantha Leotta, The Macallan Americas Brand Director, says it’s a long time coming.
“That was one of the number one inquiries from our website and social channel. Where can I purchase this? Why can’t I purchase this from you?” Leotta says. “We wanted to create an all-in-one experience on our site; a site where you could learn everything about great whisky — how to nose it, take a virtual tour of the distillery, watch videos — and buy it for yourself.”
Leotta affirmed that the launch is not a reaction to Covid-19 retail insecurities, adding the brand has been working on this launch for more than a year.
What’s available on the site is, like other online alcohol purchasing sites, a reflection of what’s on liquor store shelves near you (I see six bottles, ranging from $70 to $1,700).
Elsewhere in the world, where the chain of sale isn’t as strictly regulated, the online sale of alcohol is more widespread. And though one brand making a move toward greater accessibility does not make a retail revolution, it’s certainly a start for those dreaming of a future where Pappy Van Winkle is sold via auction on its own site.
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