By Tom Harvey, co-founder at YesMore Drinks Marketing Agency

Off-licences are allowed to continue trading via collection, takeaway and delivery according to the latest government instruction for the Coronavirus crisis. 

Whilst this is great for businesses in the drinks industry and also for the British public, it also creates risks for consumers who may be more likely than ever to over consume and put themselves and/or others in danger.

This isn’t just about those people with a known drinking problem. We’re all isolated now; drinking to get through it and often drinking alone. This isn’t a good combination. This isn’t a time to be putting any extra strain on our bodies, or on the NHS.

Marketing advice for drinks retailers, off-licences and bottle shops during (and after) Coronavirus

So here is our marketing advice for drinks retailers, drinks brands and off-licences who want to continue trading while putting public safety first and keeping stress on the NHS to a minimum.

1. Be mindful of your messaging

It’s easy for us to be inspired by internet memes to “gin up and bear it” or “keep calm and drink on” – but please be mindful of your messaging of alcohol. Our humour, especially in Britain, is predisposed to make jokes about alcohol as a way to escape our problems – but that’s the very problem itself. Do not normalise the misuse of alcohol.

2. Sell, but conscientiously

I can’t stress this point enough. Alcohol is not a drug for curing boredom, loneliness, uncertainty or anxiety. These are all emotions that the entire human population are feeling right now. Again, our marketing advice for drinks retailers is not normalise the misuse of alcohol.

3. Encourage ‘off days’ from drinking

Suggest that customers take a certain number of days off per week from drinking alcohol or remind them about some of your alcohol-free options. Additionally, remind people of their daily and weekly unit measurements for a healthy lifestyle.

4. Offer food pairings to your audience

Market your drinks with suggested food pairings.

5. Suggest customers set their own drinking limit

Just like when we go to the pub and tell everyone we’re only having one or two alcoholic drinks, retailers, off-licences and drinks brands should encourage consumers to set their limit and also to share with those they are in isolation with. 

6. Suggest places for customers to get support

We are living in an unusual world right now, so some retailers might want to consider including unexpected (but helpful) advice and support in communications with consumers for online orders of alcohol. You can include your version of the tips included here, but also consider providing links to Alcohol Change, DrinksAware, and more.

7. Err… don’t break the law

Aside from being totally not cool, it’s also against the law (see the Licensing Act 2003) to sell alcohol to someone who is visibly drunk – whether you’re a retailer or a bartender. So don’t. Especially if you or your staff suspect they may be vulnerable to misuse or worse.

8. Get your staff trained as Mental Health First Aiders

I’m a recently qualified Mental Health First Aider, inspired by Emma in our team who champions good mental health both in and out of work at YesMore and is also qualified. We came away from our mental health first aid training with the overwhelming feeling of: “why isn’t everyone involved in the marketing of alcohol trained like this??” SO, if you work for a licensed retailer, off-licence selling alcohol or a even drinks brand yourself – I urge you to train yourself and key members of your team to protect vulnerable people.

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