INDUSTRY ISSUE | Consumers, Post-Recession

Though the recession has put strains on wallets around the country, many people are finding ways to ensure that a tough economy doesn’t interfere with their going-out habits, according to a recent study by The Nielson Co. titled “Living through the Economic Hangover; What Lies Ahead.” Though more than one-third of consumers report going to bars or clubs less often than before the recession hit, more than 60 percent said they haven’t changed their ways.

Stick Close to Home
Instead, those who still are imbibing are following the shopping behaviors of the public, sticking to more “tried and true” products rather than risking their money on something new (23 percent), choosing products made in the U.S. (28 percent) and buying locally made products (25 percent). Bars can use this time as a chance to ramp up sales efforts on classic American beers and domestic wines. According to a May Harris Interactive poll, of the American adults who consume alcohol at least several times a year, 67 percent consume beer (up 5 percent from the 2006 survey). Plus, 49 percent of those who drink choose domestic wine, while only 29 percent drink foreign-made wine.

Value is King
Creative marketing tactics also will be vital to survival today, and many bars and clubs already have initiated successful campaigns. Smart move, as 50 percent of the 5,000 U.S. alcohol consumers surveyed are actively seeking out the best deals and special offers. Happy hour, anyone?

 “The on-premise or ‘going out to drink’ environment is a very, very difficult one right now,” said Danny Brager, vice president and group client director of beverage alcohol at The Nielsen Co. “Consumers are looking for ways to cut back their spending, including ordering draft beer instead of bottles, shifting from wine by the bottle to the glass and from calling for a specific brand name of liquor to letting the house decide.”

Look to the Future
Fortunately, consumers are already looking toward the future, to a time when their wallets are a bit fatter. While 75 percent of those surveyed said they don’t intend to change their spending habits on alcohol once the recession is over, about 24 percent said they will spend more on wine, 21 percent said they would spend more on spirits and 18 percent said they’d spend more on beer.

And be sure to target those aged 21 to 34; according to the survey, they’re significantly more likely to increase spending on travel, dining out, beer, wine and liquor than those 55 and older.

“Consumers in their 20s and 30s have never really known a true economic downturn so they are naturally more optimistic that things will only get better,” explained Brager. “Older consumers, however, have been hit hardest by the current economic downturn, and will likely continue to rein in their spending in an effort to shore up their retirement prospects. Alcoholic beverage manufacturers and retailers would be well served to focus on value, and provide products in a range of price categories, in order to appeal to the range of consumers, including many that are now financially strapped.”

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