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What Sober Brands Can Learn From America’s Drunk Shopping Habit

Americans spend $45 billion per year drunk shopping.

Forty-five BILLION dollars. 

That’s what The Hustle found in its survey of more than 2,000 American adults who drink.  

Let’s go beyond that big number, though. Here’s what The Hustle found out about our drunk shopping habits, what we blow our money on and what this all means for eCommerce brands.

What Did The Hustle Uncover About Drunk Shopping Culture?

Quite a lot, actually. The Hustle’s Zachary Crockett points out that almost four out of every five (79%) U.S. drinkers have made a drunk purchase, with an average spend of $444. Most of that is spent on Amazon.

This reveals how The Hustle came to its staggering $45 billion figure. Multiply the percentage of drinkers who drunk shop (79%) and their average spend ($444) by the rough number of adults who drink in the U.S. (130 million):

0.79 x 444 x 130,000,000 = $45,598,800,000

The survey also found that there’s little difference between the behaviors of men and women. Both hover near that 79% mark, and both spend just a little less than $450 per year on drunk purchases. Millennials, for their part, are more likely to shop under the influence than baby boomers.

This is all good news for eCommerce brands that sell on marketplaces. Most (85%) of the drunk shoppers in The Hustle’s survey used Amazon to make their purchases, while 12% used Etsy. 

Drunk shopping

Finder Has Also Surveyed America’s Drunk Shoppers

The Hustle’s report wasn’t the first time America’s love of consumerism and alcohol had been studied together. Comparison website Finder also conducted a drunk shopping survey of 2,100 American adults in 2019. Finder’s team found that more than one in four (26%) Americans shop when drunk. That’s lower than Finder’s 2018 survey, which found almost half (46%) admit to drunk shopping. 

That’s not to say drunk shopping is on the decline, however. As the percentage of drunk shoppers varies wildly in each study, perhaps due to the small sample sizes, each study should be taken with a grain of salt. 

What is interesting when comparing Finder’s 2019 survey to previous years is the increase in spending per person. Finder’s January 2017 study revealed the average American spent $206 per year on items while under the influence. That figure jumped to $447.57 per person in the 2018 findings, almost 120% more. By 2019, the average per-person spend had jumped to $736.

In total, Finder reckons Americans spend $39.4 billion on drunk shopping. Finder also found that millennials spend the most while inebriated, averaging $1,047 over the year. This is interesting because millennials consume less alcohol than other generations. 

Food topped the list of most common purchases, with clothing and shoes coming in second. 

Drunk Shopping Isn’t Just an American Pastime

Don’t think this is just a trend among people in the US. Canadians, Brits and Australians all have a habit of pulling out the credit card after a drink or three. 

In the UK, drunk shopping is a $5 billion industry, Finder’s Georgia-Rose Johnson says. The survey of 2,000 Brits revealed that more than 80% drink regularly, and almost half of them have made purchases while drunk. On average, Brits spend just over £291 on drunk shopping, which equates to £4.46 billion nationally. At the time of writing, that works out to 5.48 billion USD.

As in the States, the UK survey found that the most common purchase was food (22.87%) with clothes, shoes and accessories coming in second (13.8%). 

In Canada, 17% of people who drink have shopped while drunk within the past year, says Finder’s Michelle Hutchison. Those shoppers spent a total of 724 million CAD (or 546 million USD at the time of writing). Boozed Canadians, it turns out, are as likely to buy food as they are clothing, with almost half of respondents (47%) doing one or the other. 

Down Under, Finder’s Angus Kidman reports that nearly one in five Aussies shopped while drunk, spending $2.34 billion on their purchases (1.57 USD at the time of writing). Their favorite purchases were a little more spread across categories. Clothes topped the list at 8.5% of purchases. Food was second, and more booze was third. 

Drunk shopping

How Can Brands Protect Themselves?

You can’t stop consumers visiting your store when they’ve drunk too much, but you can take steps to protect your business from drunk shoppers.

Returns are probably the first worry that springs to mind. The Hustle’s survey, however, shows that returns might not need to be such a big worry. Only 20% of those surveyed returned items, and just 6% said they regretted their purchases. 

Comparing this to return rates for sober shoppers is tricky, as many consumers order multiple products with the intention to return almost all of then. You also can’t return food orders, one of the most common drunk purchases. That being said, Narvar’s 2018 Consumer Report found that 42% of consumers have returned something they bought online in the last six months. 

Nevertheless, having a clear returns policy is essential, says Chargeback’s Sydney Vaccaro. This can help protect you against chargeback fraud, where customers request a chargeback against a purchase they genuinely made. 

A clear returns policy will make it easy for customers to return their unwanted goods, thereby avoiding chargebacks and maintaining brand loyalty. Handling returns is much easier than chargebacks, too. 

Chances are someone is going to shop drunk on your eCommerce store very soon. You can’t stop them, but you can take steps to protect your brand. 

Images by: KAL VISUALS, Hans Vivek, Frank Romero