As the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic leads many businesses to shutter their doors, local liquor stores are busier than ever.
“It’s definitely been way busier than usual and you can see people are buying in large formats like boxes of wine and 24 packs,” said Caddy Bay Liquor Store manager Ayja Alvarez. “People are buying the brands that they know rather than new products.”
Alvarez said the store is ordering more from suppliers than usual in order to keep up with the demand.
Caddy Bay Liquor isn’t the only one seeing this trend. Lynne Bouchard, manager of 4 Mile Liquor Store, said the store is doing its best to keep up with customers.
“We were kind of preemptive about it and made the decision to do some pretty significant orders which I’m thankful for now,” Bouchard said. “They’re trying to buy more so they don’t have to go out as often is the gist of what I’m getting from customers.”
Due to the demand, 4 Mile Liquor Store is maintaining regular hours with staff doing their due diligence in cleaning and maintaining physical distance. Bouchard said sales now are comparable to sales during Christmas or Easter.
Lisa McDonald, manager at 17 Mile Hours Liquor Store, said even with reduced hours the store has been very busy. They have put up sneeze guards at the tills and only two people are allowed in at a time. McDonald said customers have been good about supporting the local store.
“We’ve got really good customers here,” McDonald said. “They’re coming in and saying ‘we know you need the support right now’ so that’s really nice.”
Many liquor stores have reduced hours and are beginning to offer options such as curbside pickup so customers can continue to shop and maintain distance. However, customers looking for particular products may not find exactly what they’re looking for at the moment.
Many products are out due to warehouses being out of stock or supplier delivery delays. Bouchard said the store is dealing with stock outs when ordering product, as well as the need to purchase bulk quantities of items which can cause space issues in a smaller store.
“We get what we can – our Kokanee, Bud and Lucky – but we’re going to run short of the things people don’t usually buy,” Bouchard said.
Recently the province defined essential services in consultation with Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer. Retail outlets that sell liquor and non-medical cannabis and the supply chain services that support them are included as essential services.
BC Liquor Distribution Branch spokesperson Viviana Zanocco said BC Liquor Stores have also seen sales increase by 40 per cent in March. The biggest spikes are for large-volume items like cask wine, spirits in 1.75-litre or larger bottles and 24-packs of beer.
–With files from Katya Slepian