‘Like a Scavenger Hunt’ — Your Favorite Liquor May Be Out of Stock in NJ
On any given day, customers of Garden State Discount Liquors in Perth Amboy face purchase limits on about 100 products across the store.
And it could be that way for at least another year.
"When it comes to things like Don Pérignon ... one bottle is all you're going to get," said owner Paul Santelle.
Santelle, who also serves as executive director of the New Jersey Liquor Store Alliance, said a perfect storm of factors, most of which are a product of the coronavirus pandemic, has been forcing shops to run on limited supplies of products across the board, from beer to spirits.
Some of those factors: factory interruptions in 2020, trucker/labor shortages, container issues, and increased demand.
Since the start of the pandemic, Santelle added, many consumers switched to more premium brands of liquor, since they were no longer spending money weekly on expensive drinks at bars and restaurants. So, premium tequilas and high-end scotches, among other products, aren't always available.
"It's kind of like a scavenger hunt," Santelle said. "No matter where you go, you can't find it, and that includes the internet."
Santelle said his shop receives countless emails daily from customers looking for a specific product. He thinks demand and frustration will be even greater as we approach the holiday season.
"Hopefully we'll be in a better place 12 months from now," Santelle said.
The impact on the consumer doesn't stop at purchase limits. Following the typical economic model, as supply tightens and demand increases, stores are putting out more money to get their hands on the products they and their customers need.
"The stuff keeps coming in at a higher price, so we obviously have to increase the price," said Jonathan Bello, manager at Hub Liquors in New Brunswick. "To be honest, no one's even complaining, because they're saying it's happening everywhere."
Higher-end cognacs and tequilas are among the hardest products for Hub consumers to find, Bello said.
The supply crunch initially hit liquor only, according to Bello. A few months later, he said, the same issues started with beer.
"And it's actually main brands — Corona, Modelo, which are actually our best sellers," he said.