Almost every day, as the nation’s media scrutinizes the fallout of the economic downturn, we read somewhere that while sales across most industries are down, alcohol sales are up—at least sales of lower priced wines, beers and spirits are up.
Almost every piece I read on this subject explains this seeming anomaly the same way they do in the Daily Collegian:
“[Our sales] have been increasing since the economic situation started,” said Tim Kramer, manager of Beer Depot, in
. “What do you think people run to? It’s easier to drink than go out.”
Either driven by economic fears or due to dwindling disposable income, folks are spending their leisure time staying at home drinking rather than going out and spending money on more expensive leisurely pursuits. That’s the usual explanation.
I have another theory.
Whether in good or bad times, drinking is a leisure time pursuit. You don’t do it while you are at work. Well, most people don’t. As it turns out, there are far fewer people at work these days. Put another way, the total amount of leisure time Americans collectively have on their hands has increased…and they have to spend it doing something. Drinking appears to be the way to spend that time for some.
The official U.S. Unemployment Rate for February 2009 is 8.1%, a full 65% higher than its 4.9% rate in January 2008. It’s the highest rate of unemployment the U.S. has witnessed in more than 25 years and I won’t be surprised if unemployment rises to the 10% level.
There is no doubt that people are spending more time closer to home in this economy. There is no doubt that rather than dropping cash at a restaurant, friends are being invited over for a home cooked meal and a game of Jenga. But I’m also thinking that a lot more people are finding it convenient to have a drink at 1:30pm where before, it quite so convenient.