PUNE: With Covid-19 losing its grip on and normalcy returning to the city, liquor sales have risen over the past few months with off-the-counter sales increasing by 5 to 10%. Whereas ‘home delivery’ of liquor which was started by the Maharashtra government is slowly losing ground in the city although the Wine Association would prefer that the option is kept open and that the government is in no rush to discontinue it.
According to the Pune District Wine Merchants’ Association, the demand for home delivery has declined with liquor shops remaining open during normal hours and women, too, opting to visit these shops to choose their liquors. “Ever since the government allowed the shops to remain open as before Covid-19, the demand for home delivery has gone down. During the lockdown, there was a lot of demand and I was sending liquor home for three straight weeks. But now, there are not enough consumers asking for home delivery; they prefer to come to the store,” said Shivaji Khandve, president of the Pune District Wine Merchants’ Association.
Ajay Deshmukh, secretary, Pune District Wine Merchants’ Association, said, “With most of the people now vaccinated, it has become easy to buy off-the-counter and choose favourites. While home delivery was very much the need of the hour during the lockdown, and was very efficient then, there are not many takers now.”
Santosh Zagade, superintendent of police, state excise department, said, “Home delivery services started by the state government were useful during the lockdown but with shops open throughout, sales off-the-counter have increased in the past few months by 5 to 10% in the district. There was a lot of demand for liquor and spirits during the festive period when IMFL sales were as high as (2848681) 4%, beer recorded (2880193) 25%, and wine (14732) 12% during the month of October.”
A recent survey, ‘Consumer pulse on home delivery of liquor’ carried out by the International Spirits and Wines Association of India (ISWAI) – the apex body of the premium alcoholic beverages (AlcoBev) sector – highlighted the challenges of low retail density and price arbitrage in the state namely, revenue loss and smuggling of spurious and counterfeit liquor which in turn is compromising public health. The survey highlighted the growing demand for home delivery of liquor from urban middle- and upper- class consumers including women due to factors such as safety, convenience and comfort. During the pandemic, 78% women consumers of alcoholic beverages across major Indian cities said that they are likely to buy alcohol themselves if online or home delivery services are made available.
Nita Kapoor, CEO, ISWAI, said, “The AlcoBev industry in the state is facing the challenge of low retail liquor outlet density, which leads to price arbitrage in premium brands and higher taxes. Home delivery models can bring the convenience of quality products delivered at the doorstep, and importantly, extend comfort and safety to women while buying their drinks. For women buyers, this will improve the alcohol purchasing experience.”
Like all other sectors, the pandemic has impacted the alcoholic beverages sector, too. While Indian consumers are increasingly opting for premium brands in the alcoholic beverages space, there has been a tremendous change in trends and patterns of alcohol consumption in the last 18 months. Although associations are of the view that home delivery should continue despite the dwindling demand, Kapoor said, “We request the state government to strengthen and frame standard home delivery norms to ensure that no delivery is done to underage consumers while addressing the concerns of licensed retailers as home delivery would make liquor buying convenient for the citizens of the state.”