Vinmonopolet, Norway's government-owned alcoholic beverage retailer, appears to be greatly benefiting from its decision to keep its doors open amid the coronavirus outbreak, as it has seen a strong increase in sales.
“We sell far more than usual, and we expect to sell more in the days and weeks to come”, Vinmonopolet communications manager Jens Nordahl told TV2.
Last week, sales reached 2.1 million litres, as opposed to 1.6 million litres in a normal week.
“The reason is probably that there is almost no border trade, tax-free trade, or alcohol sales in the nightlife. Most of them are on a hiatus, which is why we see so many coming to us to shop instead”, Nordahl ventured.
In the past week, customers also bought more per trade. While a single customer buys 2.2 litres on average, the average purchase has soared to 3 litres since the government's social distancing measures.
Despite the booming business, Nordahl expressed hope that consumers will show moderation, and that total alcohol consumption will not increase.
“This equals about a bottle more per transaction. We hope this means that customers are planning in advance or shop for friends and family, thus eliminating unnecessary shopping trips”, Nordahl said.
Nordahl emphasised that Vinmonopolet has enough goods in store and can fully handle the increased sales.
“There is no need to hoard”, he said.
Nordahl is not aware of any Vinmonopolet employees having tested positive for COVID-19 and the stores are open as normal.
“We are an alcohol policy tool, so if we are to shut down as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, this decision must be taken by politicians”, Nordahl said.
So far, the boom is rather seen as an outlier, as previous experiences from 11 September 2001 or 22 July 2011, the day Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in a twin terrorist attack, indicated that people tend to buy less alcohol during crises.
Alcohol awareness organisation Av og till (Once in a while) expressed concern about the hoarding trend at Vinmonopolet.
“It can be easy to slip into vacation mode a bit when you work from home and have no meetings to attend the next morning”, its Secretary General Randi Hagen Eriksrud warned.
Vinmonopolet, colloquially shortened to Polet, is a state-run chain of liquor stores and the only one in the country allowed to sell beverages containing alcohol stronger than 4.75%.
All Nordic nations bar Denmark have a history of temperance movements and prohibition, which still manifests itself in strict state control and high prices. Government monopolies are in place in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands.
Norway currently has 1,552 coronavirus cases, with six fatalities.
With the number of cases rapidly increasing, the government has introduced emergency measures to stem the spread. All educational establishments are closed, along with many workplaces, shops, and other public services. Supermarkets and pharmacies remain open. Most Norwegian companies have home office arrangements in place whenever possible. Most pubs, bars, and restaurants are closed, forcing their owners to lay off staff.