Changes to the Alcohol Distribution Business During COVID-19

Cheryl Durzy LibDibBy Cheryl Durzy, Founder & CEO, LibDib - 

The world has changed drastically in the last 4-5 weeks. Our hearts and thoughts go out to those who are dealing with any health issues. Alcohol distribution, like so many other industries, has also seen its share of changes. Here are a few of my thoughts on what we are seeing at LibDib:

1. Restaurants and Bars:

Sadly, our on-premise restaurant and bar friends are not able to operate except for takeout. This has slowed their business dramatically. If you are able to, support your favorite local restaurants by ordering food and drinks to go. My family and I each pick one local restaurant to order from every other day. It breaks up the monotony of mom’s cooking (thanks, kids) and supports our industry friends. With limited menus, some of the take out options have been super creative and really delicious. In some states they can even sell wine and spirits to go. Restaurants are getting creative and offering special bottles of wine and cocktail kits. 

2. Off-Premise Sales: 

Like most other distributors, we’ve seen uptick in the off-premise business. However, our Makers are not widely distributed (yet!) in all the grocery stores, which is where most of the tremendous growth is coming from. We do, however, have strong partnerships with the online retailers that are offering their customers amazing small batch wines and spirits. 

There has been a lot of chatter within the alcohol industry about how the quarantine/shelter in place situation has increased online ordering and home delivery of alcohol like...1000%. The question is, will this trend stay after we can all get out of our houses again? I think those that can win at the best user experience will prevail (customers will come back). 

One big challenge that is on my mind: people have been home to sign (or virtually sign due to social distancing) but the delivery sees the adults face for 21 and over deliveries. What happens when they go back to work?

3. Distilleries:

I had a few calls last week with some of our amazing distillery partners. Some of them still had their masks around their necks due to their relentless work in producing hand sanitizer for the front lines. I want to take a moment here to recognize that not only did they pivot their small businesses almost immediately, but they did it to help in a time of crisis. Some LibDib Makers are doing what they can to help out. I plan on returning the favor by purchasing and drinking their amazing spirits now and in the future… maybe you can too. 

Here’s a list of those offering hand sanitizer. While it’s tough to ship across state lines, if you happen to be a buyer in the state and want to buy directly from them, reach out! 

LibDib Distillers Offering Hand Sanitizers:

If any of my other Makers are participating in hand sanitizer production, let me know and I will add you to the list!

4. Wineries: 

Man oh man, the wine business is struggling. I see it first hand here in California and, of course, in my family business. The on-premise business is gone. And many boutique wineries rely on their tasting rooms and events to carry them through. Weddings, parties and concerts…all cancelled or delayed. And really when you think about it, how long will it take to “get back to normal” when it comes to being in crowds of people? It’s a new reality and we will all need to adapt. 

Wineries can place tasting-room only wines into Three-Tier sales and offer these special wines to online retailers. It’s a good place to start and we’re seeing success with this. Also, when the Sommeliers are able to get back to work, giving them access to unique things that were never offered in the marketplace is a real opportunity. I have seen a number of very entrepreneurial wineries partnering with their local restaurants to offer take-out with good pricing on pairings with wine bottles to go. 

Our partner, Ben Salisbury, is hosting online webinars for wineries right now on how to attract and retain trade business during these times. Highly recommend checking out his courses.

5. LibDib: 

Here at LibDib, we just finished week five of work from home. We still get together regularly for Taco Tuesday and Wine Wednesday via WebEx. It’s great to see everyone's faces! However, I really like working in our office and being around all of our great people, so I can’t WAIT to have actual tacos in person. It’s times like these that make you realize how important in-person contact is, seeing faces, body language and hearing actual tone of voice (not through a computer). 

I try to remind people that we are not just “working from home.” We are sheltering in place during a pandemic, and getting work done in between. We have people that have taken on full time care and education of their children. People are worried about getting sick, or family members getting sick. Dogs, spouses, teenagers…everyone is at home and that can be a challenging work environment. It’s so important to think about this as we interact with each other as a team and with our Makers and Buyers. 

However, LibDibbers are operating at full force, getting amazing wines and spirits to our customers compliantly, and doing everything we can to support our industry during these challenging times. 

Stay safe and stay healthy all!