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April 08, 2021

Alcohol sales up, or down, depending on who you ask

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

I’ve been sitting on this post idea for more than a month now because, well, no one can figure it out.

When the Financial Post ran a recent graphic showing alcohol sales, of all things, were shooting down at a record pace, you just had to scratch your head.

Lay-offs + Crumbling Pensions + House Foreclosures + Decimated Savings = Suckin’ Back On Grandpa’s Ol’ Cough Medicine, right? Doesn’t that math add up?

You tell me.

In the U.S. at least, sales of alcoholic beverages plummeted 9.3% in the fourth-quarter last year, a decline that arrived in convenient unison with the American recession’s one-year anniversary.

That dip, four times the plunge overall consumer spending endured, “shattered the previous record of 3.7% in the fourth quarter of 1991,” according to Bloomberg News.

Sounds pretty severe, but here’s where the flip-flop begins.

In Canada, where the beer flows like wine (Dumb and Dumber reference count: 2), alcohol sales are said to be flourishing, boasting a frothy 17.3% rise based on the most recent available figures.

Yet in Ireland, a place where drinking comes as natural as not making people laugh does to D.L. Hughley, alcohol sales have somehow flat-lined to the lowest they’ve been in a decade. Like its American counterpart, experts figure 2009 will be even worse for local sales as each country struggles to cope with its slumping economy.

So, this begs the question: what trend do we believe? Are the U.S. and Ireland the accurate models here, suggesting when times are tough any and all expenses are trimmed, no matter what the circumstance?

Or will Canada’s boost in sales prove to be the norm when newer industry numbers are released?

Alcohol’s reputation as recession-proof, the supposed tried-and-true fix-all, stands at stake.



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About the Authors

Gordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo), canoe.ca, AOL.ca, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...