Monthly wholesale trade data were recently released from the U.S. Census Department and include a breakout of inventory and sales data collected from alcohol beverage wholesalers – these data cover all alcohol beverage wholesalers for beer, wine and spirits.
The combined inventory and sales data are an indicator of the underlying health of the industry and can be used to interpret changes in supply and consumer demand.
September wholesale trade inventory and sales data indicate a directional change in trends for the industry.
Over the past year, on a moving average basis, the inventory to sales ratio has seen a persistent decline. This has been attributed to an increase in inventories recorded at the end of each month and a corresponding slowdown in reported sales.
This is not a big surprise for the beer industry, as continued growth in new brewers and new brands brings increased inventory and slower inventory turns to wholesalers and retailers.
There are absolutely more SKUs for beer distributors to manage each month.
With September data, we see the first signs that inventories may be slowly coming back into alignment with sales. The change in trend for the inventory to sales ratio at this point is recent but also indicates that alcohol beverage wholesale trade may be handling the explosion of products and brands in a more efficient and effective way.