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Direct-to-consumer wine sales adapt in the first full year of COVID-19 business conditions

Market Bulletin | Issue 249
07 Oct 2021
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Australian wineries have reported in Wine Australia’s Wine Direct-to-Consumer Survey Report 2021 that direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales grew strongly in 2020–21, up by 17 per cent in value and 14 per cent in volume compared to the previous financial year. By contrast, overall sales value for survey respondents grew by 1 per cent, while volume declined by 5 per cent.

Performance of DTC channels

Overall, DTC sales were reported to account for 18 per cent of wine sales value and 5 per cent of volume in 2020–21. As has been consistently found over the past three surveys, DTC made up a higher share of wine sales value than volume, indicating a higher average value than other sales channels, while the share of DTC generally increased as winery size decreased. DTC sales made up 74 per cent of total sales value on average for survey respondents producing fewer than 5000 cases.

Within the different DTC channels, all increased in value and volume in 2020–21 except for events. Online and cellar door had the strongest value growth for survey respondents. Cellar door sales revenue grew by 22 per cent, while online sales grew by 23 per cent (Figure 1).

Figure 1                                DTC sales change year-on-year by channel

Source: Wine Australia Wine Direct-to-Consumer Survey Report 2021

Across all DTC channels, the survey found that average retail sales value in 2020–21 was up 3 per cent to $239 per 9-litre case including GST (equivalent to $19.92 per 750 ml bottle).

Apart from ‘own restaurant’, which is a very small segment, the highest average case value was for wine club ($262 per case) followed by cellar door ($254) and online ($210).

There was a big drop in the average case value for online sales (down 14 per cent) and wine club (down 5 per cent), while the average value per case for cellar door sales increased by 16 per cent (Figure 2).

Figure 2                                Average value and change year-on-year by DTC channel

Source: Wine Australia Wine Direct-to-Consumer Survey Report 2021

Cellar doors adapted to COVID-19 business conditions

One of the most striking findings of the survey was that the proportion of wineries charging for wine tastings increased from 54 per cent in last year’s survey to 73 per cent this year, and the average value for a tasting increased by more than 30 per cent (see Figure 3).

The share of seated tastings was also reported to have increased significantly, up from 44 per cent in 2019–20 to 66 per cent in 2020–21, while 71 per cent of respondents reported that bookings were encouraged for all tastings (but not mandatory).

Figure 3                                Comparison of standard tasting fees charged by survey year

Source: Wine Australia Wine Direct-to-consumer Survey Report 2021

These changes illustrate how wineries have adapted their business models to suit the COVID-19 environment for business operations and have provided more tailored and more profitable experiences for visitors as a result. As one respondent noted: “Sit down tastings have been great to engage with customers on another level”.

The success of these changes was borne out in the sales figures. Despite a 4 per cent reduction overall in visitor numbers, cellar door sales volume grew on average by 5 per cent and value by 22 per cent.

Wine clubs and online sales saw increases in volume but erosion in average value

While cellar door sales improved, wine clubs were reported to have struggled. Although wine club sales revenue grew by 10 per cent in 2020–21, wine clubs’ share of DTC sales declined from 21 per cent to 19 per cent. Responses showed the average 9-litre case value also declined (by 5 per cent), and average value per member declined by 14 per cent as a result of the reduced average case value combined with a slight reduction in average number of shipments per member.

An analysis of the club offers described in the survey showed that over 79 per cent of respondents’ clubs/tiers provided free shipping on all orders, while 62 per cent provided discounts of between 11 and 20 per cent on shipments (Figure 4).

Figure 4                                Discounting offered by wine clubs/tiers in 2020–21

Source: Wine Australia Wine Direct-to-consumer Survey Report 2021

Online sales saw significant growth (44 per cent) in sales volume, consistent with a broader consumer trend to purchase more online during the pandemic. However, sales value did not increase by as much, with a resultant decrease of 14 per cent in average case value to $210 per 9-litre case. This is in contrast to last year’s survey result, when online volume increased by 50 per cent and value by 49 per cent, giving only a very small decrease in average value.

Note on interpretation

The Wine Direct-to-Consumer Survey Report 2021 provides important insight into how wineries have managed the first full year of “living with COVID”, but the sample size was small[1], and there have been a wide range of experiences across the country that are not reflected in overall averages.

All wineries are encouraged to collect this data and measure their own performance regularly, so they know which channels are doing well and where investment will be most beneficial. For assistance with benchmarking, contact or book a session with an analyst.

The full report can be found on the Wine Australia website.

[1] 123 respondents completed the survey in 2021

This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.