The global shopping might that is Amazon has turned its hand to Australia’s alcohol industry, launching into an already crowded home-delivery landscape, enhancing fears of alcohol abuse and related harm.
While the alcohol education sector reels at the thought of more players in the home-delivery space, retail insiders say Amazon has left its move too late and will fail to make an impact.
Amazon announced its foray on Wednesday, at the same time as yet another set of research shows just how much Australians’ alcohol consumption has increased throughout the past few months of the COVID-19 lockdown.
The data from the Australian National University showed almost 20 per cent of survey respondents were drinking more than usual during lockdown.
Booze businesses are reporting boons in sales – this is particularly true for delivery-based businesses such as Jimmy Brings, which posted an increase of 23 per cent in March alone.
Amazon Australia, which launched in 2017, specialises in pushing out bulk sales at lower prices, creating a worrying access issue for those already drinking at risky levels, National Drug Research Institute’s Nicole Lee said.
“What we do know is that access to alcohol is one of the biggest drivers to (harmful drinking),” Dr Lee told The New Daily.
The cup’s already full
Amazon remains a mega-player overseas, particularly in the US, but its entry into Australia hasn’t been as devastating as was predicted.
Leading food retail expert Gary Mortimer reflected on 2016, when then-Wesfarmers boss Richard Goyder verbalised all Australian retailers’ fears when he said Amazon will “eat all our breakfasts, lunches and dinners”.
“That’s just not been the case,” said Associate Professor Mortimer, of Queensland University of Technology.
“While Amazon is still a force to be reckoned with, they haven’t had the impact in Australia that they had in the US.”
Professor Mortimer said Amazon would be squeezing its alcohol offering into a market that’s firmly rooted into customer convenience – many people who buy booze online already have their habits, with Dan Murphy’s dominating the game.
“Alcohol purchases tend to be a convenience-based purchase; you pick up a bottle of wine on the way home,” he said.
“If you’re bulk purchasing, consumers are looking for value and are willing to wait for delivery.”
Amazon Australia is offering free delivery to its members for a two to four-day delivery timeframe, and free delivery to members for orders over $39.
Dan Murphy’s charges $6.90 for metro deliveries in a two to four-day timeframe.
Professor Mortimer says Amazon’s arrival at the party might be too late to score it a legion of fans.
“I think it’s good news for existing Amazon customers, but I don’t think any new consumers will jump on unless the prices are really low and the brands are well known,” Professor Mortimer said.
“It will create greater competition in the market, which could drive prices down, but that’s not necessarily a good thing when it comes to alcohol.”
Closing time looms
New South Wales this week announced it would begin pushing for reforms to create new offences aimed at same-day alcohol delivery businesses, including supplying alcohol to intoxicated customers, and delivery outside bottle shop trading hours.
It would also set in place firm obligations for these platforms to ensure the purchaser was over the age of 18.
Dr Lee acknowledged the general public was not fond of more restrictions when it came to alcohol, but said more control and regulations helped to curb harmful drinking levels in at-risk individuals.
Amazon Australia says its website will require age identification at the checkout for liquor sales, and require proof of ID upon delivery.
- If you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol problem, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Family Drug Support Australia on 1300 368 186.