2018 Fall Whiskey Trends

December 6, 2018 In Retailer Insights

It’s common knowledge that whiskey is a popular spirit right now. We’ve seen trends take off across the subcategory, from the “Bourbon Boom” to the rising popularity of Scottish and Irish imports. So to help you get ready for the holiday sales rush, we took a look at the top performing brands in our network this September and October.

The following 6 brands are ranked in descending order of total quantity sold across sizes. The specific trends and insights in this article, however — from pricing to time of day breakdown — apply only to the top performing bottle size for each of the 6 brands (either 750mL or 1.5L, except for Fireball).

Check out the following data points to help you strategize around stock, pricing, and promotions ahead of the New Year:

#1 Fireball

Fireball is unique among the top ranking whiskeys for one big reason. Their 50mL unit sales eclipse all other bottle sizes — by a long shot. Fireball nips are so far ahead of the pack that their total dollar sales this Fall beat out Fireball 750mL bottles. That’s hard to do for an item that costs only $1 (compared to ~$15 for the 750mL). Indeed, their popularity is due in large part to their low price, which sets the item apart from other 50mL whiskeys. But it’s also brand-power. Jim Beam nips, for example, are also typically priced at $1. But Fireball sold 8x more time nips than the Kentucky Bourbon. And Jim Beam nips sales came nowhere near the total dollar sales of Jim Beam handles, even though they sold more 50mL units.

Fireball 50mL sold most often on Friday and Saturday evenings (followed by Wednesday, interestingly), and at a $1 price point. However, after nips are taken out of the equation, Fireball drops to 3rd place in the rankings & the 750mL becomes the top-performer for the brand.

A final note: 20% of 100mL Fireball sales went for $2 instead of $1. Given the quantities sold of this one item, experimenting with a $2 price point could give your profits a big lift.

#2 Jack Daniels

Aside from Fireball, Jack Daniels Old No. 7 was the top performing whiskey brand in our network this Fall — specifically the 750mL bottle size. Other bottles performed well too, with a pretty even spread of unit sales among 200mL, 375mL, and 1.75L handles.

Jack Daniels 750mL drove a median basket value of $39 and a median basket size of 2 items. Nearly 80% of sales clocked in at $24-26, with the greatest number of sales occurring at the $25 price point. That means the 750mL bottle drove incremental sales of about $14-16.

Finally, nearly one-third of all sales occurred on Saturday. The same goes for time of day — 4-6pm garnered over 30% of all purchases.

 

#3 Jameson

Jameson Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey is the 3rd most popular whiskey on our Fall list. However, unlike Jack Daniels, 1.75L handles outperformed all other bottle sizes. Furthermore, the spread of unit sales among the bottle sizes was even more competitive for Jameson than for Jack — 750mL and 200mL bottles did not lag far behind the handles.

Most importantly, Jameson 1.75L drove the highest median basket value of the 6 top whiskeys, clocking in at $76 and a median size of 2 items. That difference is due to its higher price point — Jameson handles are pretty rigidly priced at $51, encompassing nearly half of all sales. Interestingly, though, the $39-44 range broke out from the pack, encompassing about 20% of all purchases.

Finally, sales of Jameson 1.75L increase steadily over the course of the week, from Sunday to Saturday. The majority of these sales took place at 4pm.

 

#4 Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker Black Label ranks 4 in our list of top-selling brands. 750mL sales took the cake for this whiskey, with 1.75L pulling up in second. Unlike the above two brands on our list, Johnnie Walker did not display a competitive pricing spread among bottle sizes. 750mL and 1.75 outperformed other sizes by a pretty substantial margin.

Johnnie 750mL also displayed the most rigid pricing of any of the top 6 brands. 65% of all sales went for $29. Second place goes to $39 for 5% of all sales, third to $34. No sales occurred below $25.

With a median basket value of $49 and size of 2 items, Johnnie Walker Black Label drove incremental sales of about $20 in most cases.

Like Jack Daniels, nearly one-third of all handle sales took place on Saturday. Almost 50% occurred on either Friday or Saturday. Jack Daniels is also purchased slightly later; 6pm as the most popular hour.

#5 Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Number 5 Jim Beam brings us back to the 1.75L handle, which sold about twice as much as 200mL, 375mL, and 750mL sizes. Interestingly, 375mL and 200mL sold more units than the 750mL by a slim but noticeable margin — the only whiskey on our list to exhibit this quality.

Pricing for Jim Beam 1.75 also broke the norm relative to the top 6. The spread for this brand/size was a bit more pronounced than the others. Over 70% of sales occurred between $26 and $32, though no specific price point truly stood out from the rest. $28 and $26 were the top performers with about 20% of total sales each.

Median basket size was the same as the rest at 2 items, though value dropped to about $42. So given their similar price points, Jim Beam drove slightly less incremental sales compared to Johnnie Walker.

Though Jim Beam 1.75L behaved like the other 6, selling most often around 4-5pm, it’s worth noting that an unusual spike in sales occurred on Wednesdays. In fact, sales are spread out more across the whole week for this item compared to the other brands (Friday & Saturday still clock the most).

#6 Dewars White Label Blended Scotch Whiskey

Finally, pulling up in 6th place is Dewars White Label. Handles were the top performer for this brand by far. Sales for this size outstripped all others by a factor greater than 5x.

This brand was an outlier in other ways, too. While the median basket sizes and values were pretty typical — 2 items and $50 respectively — the time of day, day of week, and pricing breakdown were all different.

For example, nearly half of all sales happened at $29. The other half spread out evenly between $32-38. What’s more, Dewars handles sold the most at 2pm. And Tuesday sales surged to 3rd place. This earlier-in-the-day, earlier-in-the-week buying behavior could point to a different customer for Dewars than for the other top 5 brands.

 

SUMMARY:

Jameson handles drove the highest basket value at $76. Generally-speaking, the sweet spot for top whiskey brand sales is around 4-6pm on Saturdays (followed closely by Friday). Jim Beam and Dewars display more slippery pricing, with breakout price ranges, while Jack, Jameson and Johnnie Walker are more clustered around a single competitive price. 375mL sold more units than 750mL for Jim Beam, while they performed the worst for Johnnie (besides 1L). Finally, Dewar’s seems to appeal to a different customer than the rest, while Fireball is an outlying brand with its own brand power and size preferences.

Thanks for checking out our Fall Whiskey Trends. We hope these insights are helpful as you set your tasting calendar, optimize pricing and choose product for the holiday season. Stay tuned for more trends!

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