Page 10 - BusinessWest July 20, 2020
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Paul Kozub says that, while the pandemic has certainly increased sales of his vodka in liquor stores, that hasn’t made up for the losses he’s incurred at bars, restaurants, and events.
& Vine in West Springfield, agreed. He said overall business volume has increased, as have visits to the store, but what has really ratcheted up has been online ordering and curbside pickup. The company has always featured the former — it’s been especially popular with wine buyers — but not the latter until the pandemic created a huge need for it.
“The impact on our business for online orders went up dramatically — it was a huge increase in the number of orders we were getting,” he said last week, noting that, while it has tapered off lately as restaurants have reopened, recent holidays, such as the Fourth of July, saw huge volume, and orders continue to flow in. “There’s a stack of orders for us to pick today, and then we keep up with it throughout the day.”
For others, this trend, which would appear to have some staying power — because, in this state, bars won’t open until there’s a vaccine, and in others where they’ve opened, they’re closing down again — is simply shifting business from one type of client to another.
Indeed, Paul Kozub, founder of Hadley-based V-One Vodka, said that, while his sales to liquor stores are certainly up — 30% to 40% over last year, by his estimation — sales to restaurants and bars are way down. And the scale is not exactly balanced because the latter has tra- ditionally been the source of more business than the former, especially at certain times of the year, like spring, when COVID-19 shut most everything down.
“In March and April, I lost 50% of my business because I do so much in bars and restaurants during those months, while I do a lot more in liquor stores in November in December, so that was quite a shock,” Kozub said. “The package stores are up, but that certainly doesn’t make up for what we’ve lost in those bars and restaurants.”
Overall, as with most sectors of the economy, the pandemic has cre- ated some opportunities for those making and selling spirits, and also eliminated others. For this issue, we take a look at how the numbers provide some hard proof — yes, that’s an industry term — of how buy- ing and consumption habits have changed.
Case in Point
Barry, like many liquor-store owners, reduced his hours early in the spring and closed earlier at night. There were many reasons for this, he said, listing fewer people being on the roads, the fact that almost all surrounding stores were closed, and a desire to limit the risk of expo- sure to customers and employees alike.
But there was also what he called simply the “fatigue factor.”
“My staff was just overworked, so we needed to cut back,” he explained, noting that, while things have settled down somewhat since then, with restaurants now open, many people are still wary about going to such eateries, and in the meantime, large numbers of people continue to entertain and, yes, work from home.
Which means they’re buying more at the liquor stores. And their buying habits are changing in all kinds of ways, said Barry and Quin-
   10 JULY 20, 2020
COVID-19 BusinessWest
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