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Drinking Away the Recession

By Kirwan Gray 05/16/11

A new survey finds that 87% of Americans are planning to spend more on booze this year.

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Drink up! The Dow Jones just gained a point.

It probably shouldn't come as a surprise, but a recent survey by AlixPartners, a business advisory firm, reports that 87 % of U.S. adults plan to spend at least as much, or more, on alcoholic drinks in the next 12 months as they did in 2010. What's behind America's new thirst for alcohol? Does the overall drinking rate track with the prime lending rate? With unemployment statistics? It’s not quite that simple, says David Garfield, head of Consumer Products Practice for AlixPartners: “Consumers, before, had a deadbolt and padlock mentality around some of their discretionary spending. They are slowly going from pessimistic toward cautiously optimistic, but are still very value-conscious.” 

The survey should come as good news to budget-conscious booze brands likes Anheuser-Busch and, uh, Popov. But here at The Fix, we're not quite sure what to make of it. Should we cheer the country's heavier drinking as a sign of the economy’s return to health? Or decry it as another step toward America's decadent dissolution? For his part, Garfield sees the results as a positive sign that the “full frontal assault” of the financial recession may be easing, though he doesn't think we're out of the woods just yet. “Fewer consumers are saying ‘I’m going to spend less,’ he says. "But they haven’t swung over to say ‘I’m going to spend a lot more.’”

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