Nielsen said sales of alcohol increased 55% during the third week of March.
Wine sales grew 66%. Beer sales grew 34%. Larger beer packs of 24 or 30 rose 90% for the week as consumer stocked up compared to 12 pack sales up 61% and six-pack sales up 16%.
Brick and mortar liquor stores saw sales increase by 75%.
For the four week period, Diageo (DEO) spirits sales grew 19.5% in line with Constellation Brands while Beam Suntory grew 21.7%, and Brown-Forman grew 28.9%.
That said, as of April 6, Diageo’s shares sat at $127, down 38% from their 52-week of $176. Brown-Forman was fared better, at $56.42, down 5% from a 52-week high of $57.99. Bean Suntory is privately held.
The Nielsen number are more proof that the world is turning to alcohol to relieve COVID-19 stress.
If that’s you, it’s possible to semi-comfort yourself with the knowledge that the desire to get drunk during a deadly pandemic is fairly reasonable.
Kenneth Skale, president of the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, told Vice News that the urge to have a drink (or a few) right now is “totally normal.”
“Think about what people are going through,” he said. “There’s a ton of uncertainty, financial pressure—no one knows how this thing is going to turn out.”
Skale said people typically use substances in one of two ways: as a stand-in for relationships, or to numb themselves from the feelings they’re experiencing. “Whenever we feel threatened, [most of us] have the urge to get closer to others,” Skale said. “Or, we have the urge to check out and not be with that feeling.”
Since connecting with loved ones (and/or… anyone else) isn’t an option right now in a physical sense, it makes sense that people would turn to alcohol to replace those connections, and to feel less afraid.
The voice of reason, or for lack of a better term, the killjoy, is clinical psychologist Ryan Howes. “The main problem is, drinking works,” said the Ph.D. who practices in Pasadena, Calf. “It does take away some of the stress and help you relax—while you’re drinking.”
But those soothing effects of drinking are temporary and maybe bad in the long run, or even as soon as you’re sober again.
“When you wake up the next morning, you’re faced with a hangover, the same stress you were trying to avoid, and a diminished capacity to handle that stress,” Howes said.
“Think about how hard it is to complete a basic task or cope with an annoying roommate when you’re hungover on a normal day.”
Our answer to that is that Howes is entitled to his opinion, contrarian though it might be.