Shopper intelligence leader Catalina, St. Petersburg, Fla., has tapped into its Buyer Intelligence Platform to determine how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted alcohol beverage purchases at grocery stores across the country for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and how they are likely to fare in 2022.

With panic buying starting in March 2020 as COVID-19 lockdowns began, in-store alcohol sales around St. Patrick’s Day surged. One year later, alcohol sales in most categories declined on a percentage basis versus 2020, but they still posted a 20% increase overall compared with the last “regular” St. Patrick’s Day celebrated in 2019. The exception is the pre-mixed cocktails/cooler category, which has experienced an ongoing sales boom.   

In looking at recent sales trends for the four weeks ending March 4, total alcohol sales are trending about flat versus last year. As such, Catalina predicts St. Patrick’s Day week in 2022 will be comparable to last year. For comparison, alcohol sales for Super Bowl week this year were down about 2% versus Super Bowl week last year. However, compared with the same pre-pandemic period in 2019, alcohol sales continue to be higher. That is why Catalina estimates St. Patrick’s Day week this year will be 5-15% higher than 2019 levels, with beer leading the way.

“It makes sense that sales of adult beverages were up in 2021 compared to the last pre-pandemic St. Patrick’s Day holiday since many public gathering places last year still faced COVID restrictions. Add to that, many people were still uncomfortable gathering indoors ― and they weren't keen on drinking or dining outdoors at the tail end of winter ― hence many chose to celebrate at home,” said Sean Murphy, chief data and analytics officer for Catalina, in a statement.

“Here we are two years into the pandemic, with more than 77% of the country having received at least one vaccine dose, CDC masking guidelines easing, and restaurants and bars back operating again with few restrictions in most places,” Murphy continued. “With the National Retail Federation’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Survey showing that 19% of respondents plan to celebrate at a bar or restaurant this year ― compared to 10% a year ago ― 25% of respondents are still planning to host or attend larger private gatherings, compared to 21% last year. That’s why we anticipate in-store liquor sales this year will still be higher than 2019, even with a corresponding uptick at bars and restaurants.”