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Does Dry January mean less money for local bars, lounges, and liquor stores?

January 10, 2020

Dry January, a month-long practice to abstain from alcohol to start the new year, is still a pretty new idea. The practice began in the United Kingdom back in 2014, where it has grown rather popular. And while the trend isn’t quite as popular here in the states, it’s definitely begun to catch on.

According to a 2019 YouGov survey, 21% of Americans said they planned on participating in Dry January, and major news outlets now run dozens of stories about the health benefits that accompany a monthlong break from booze.


But outside of surveys and hashtag campaigns, there isn’t a whole lot of data out there to validate the impact of Dry January. So we analyzed transaction data from 3,100 local bars and 2,700 local liquor stores and crunched the numbers to find out:

Does Dry January make an impact on booze sales in America? If so, how much? Which cities are the most (and least) impacted by Dry January?

Keep reading to find out the answers to these questions and a whole lot more!

Does Dry January impact sales at local bars and liquor stores?

The short answer? It sure looks like it might.

Let’s start by taking a look at the seasonality charts for both types of businesses.

Both bars and liquor stores start the year with what is easily their slowest week of the year. Revenue does climb rather quickly throughout January, but even by the time we reach February, revenue is still much lower than when things start to really pick up in the middle of the year.

The slowest 4 weeks of the year at bars and liquor stores are all in Janaury

To look at it another way, here are the bottom 5 weeks of the year in 2019 by total revenue for both bars and liquor stores:

That’s right, January is so slow for both bars and liquor stores that it is responsible for the four slowest weeks of the year at both businesses. (The week of January 28 – February 3 was the 6th slowest week for bars and the 9th slowest week for liquor stores).

Many of the slowest days of the year last year were also in January

Likewise, the 5 slowest days of the year in 2019 for bars and liquor stores also feature plenty of days in the month of January:

Christmas was the slowest day for bars in 2019, but only 42% of the bars in our analysis kept their doors open on that day. The next 3 slowest days were all—you guessed it—weekdays in January.

It was a similar story at liquor stores, with Christmas (when only 39% of stores stayed open) being the slowest day, followed by 3 days in January.

How much less do local bars and liquor stores make per day during Dry January?

To better understand the actual financial impact of Dry January on local bars and liquor stores, we next compared the average day at each type of business during the month of January vs the annual average.

The average day during January saw local bars bring in 13% less in revenue than the average day during the year. The average number of transactions dropped from 28 per day to 24. Ticket size, meanwhile, stayed more or less the same in January.

This suggests that it’s not that customers are more frugal during January, but that there are simply fewer customers coming in the door—perhaps due in part to more people participating in Dry January.

Liquor stores take an even bigger hit during dry January, as daily revenue drops by 20% vs the annual average. The average liquor store in our analysis processed 41 transactions per day in January, down from the annual average of 49. And unlike at bars, there is a slightly more measurable drop in ticket size as well.

It’s hard to say how much Dry January (or New Year’s Resolutions) is responsible for any of the above, but it’s clear that January is certainly the “driest” month of the year across the country.

Where in the country is Dry January the most (and least) popular?

The final thing we wanted to examine was which cities saw alcohol sales drop the most, and the least, during the month of January. To do this, we looked at every metro area where we had 10 or more bars and 10 or more liquor stores and examined which cities saw the steepest drop in sales in January vs the rest of the year.

The cities whose local bars were most and least affected by Dry January

Bars in Cleveland, Ohio saw revenue drop 49% in January vs the rest of the year, more than any other city in our analysis. Whether this is because Dry January has become a sensation in Cleveland, or due to other factors, is anyone’s guess. But it’s clear that Clevelanders cut back on visits to the bar by quite a bit.

Other cities with particularly slow Januarys include: Spokane, WA, Columbia, MO, and Florida neighbors Daytona Beach and Sarasota.

Another Florida city, however, took home the crown as the city home to bars least affected by Dry January. Bars in Pensacola, Florida actually earned 12% more in January than the annual monthly average.

No other city in our analysis experienced above-average revenue in January, but bars in Riverside, CA,  Billings, MT, Davenport, IA, Atlanta, GA, and Las Vegas, NV all saw revenue drop by less than 10%.

The cities whose local liquor stores were most and least affected by Dry January

Liquor stores in Walla Walla, Washington saw revenue drop by a whopping 67% in January vs the average month, far and away the largest in our analysis. Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania liquor stores were the 2nd and 3rd most impacted by Dry January, with drops of 48% and 45%, respectively.

Meanwhile, two cities in our analysis had liquor stores bring in slightly above-average monthly revenue in January: liquor store sales in Kansas City, and Tampa were both up 6% in January vs the average month.

Again, it’s hard to say with certainty how much any drop in sales is due to locals participating in Dry January, but there is undoubtedly a nationwide trend toward cutting back on spending money at bars and liquor stores to start out the new year.

Ideas on how to approach Dry January if you own or manage a bar or liquor store

Do you own or manage a local bar or liquor store? And if so, are you seeing January become slower and slower each year? If so, you might want to do some extra thinking about your approach to the beginning of each year.

If your business is a bar, there are actually several creative approaches you can take to generating business while still supporting this growing trend. As this Washington Post article details, specialty nonalcoholic drinks are becoming increasingly popular. Think about designing and promoting a few intriguing nonalcoholic drinks and making your bar a great place for people to socialize while still participating in Dry January.

If you own or manage a liquor store, your options may be more limited, but you can still consider things like running special deals or even simply cutting back on the number of days or hours you stay open in January.

Check out a few of our helpful guides for bar and lounge owners:

No matter your approach to Dry January, Womply’s reputation management software can help make things easier while saving you time and money. Sign up for a free demo below to see how Womply has helped businesses like yours increase revenue by 20%, see 22% more repeat customers, and save 10 hours of time per week.

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