Alcohol delivery services suffer under Brexit, costly tech and watchdog research findings.

The days of soaring online drinks sales fuelled by the pandemic seem to be well and truly in the rear-view mirror for some ecommerce companies, as they wind-up operations. Moreover, new research has thrown into question the responsibility measures used by rapid delivery services.

Companies that have closed their virtual doors have done so for varying reasons. Pete Pedrick, owner of The Champagne Collection, which ceased online sales at the end of April, said post-Brexit trading had become a “nightmare” for his business.

“Pre-Brexit, importing was easy, post-Brexit it’s a complete, costly, time-consuming nightmare,” he said. “Costs up, time frames up, none of it makes sense, simply because none of it adds any value anywhere in the chain. The big boys swallow all this but us small independent importers are slowly suffocating.”

Pedrick added that his online business wasn’t as big as he had hoped. “Getting traffic to your site is harder and more costly than people think. Type Champagne or anything like a Grande Marque brand into Google and the first page will be the same options returned every time. We analysed this, and getting to a point of landing on page one on a search quickly wipes out profit.”

Growing tech know-how also proved too much for rapid delivery app Drop, which closed on May 6. Founders Ian Campbell and Will Palmer said the decision was made through the lens of “reality rather than hope”.

The company had expanded its one-hour delivery service outside of London in 2023, in a tie-up with Brighton-based Quaff. At the time, Drop outlined ambitions to take the app to other cities, including Bristol, Birmingham, Bath and Edinburgh.

“Ultimately with Drop we aimed to be a place where wine enthusiasts could come and explore the world we love so much, and share the wines we’re passionate about with people of similar interests in a new and, dare we say it, efficient manner,” the pair said in a statement to customers. “Good wine for impatient people, really. Sadly, as we have aimed to expand we have needed to morph into a tech-heavy business that is ill-suited to us.”

There were further concerns raised around online drinks retailing recently. Research from Alcohol Change UK suggested rapid- delivery services may encourage consumers to continue drinking when they would otherwise have stopped.

The research surveyed 2,001 UK adults between January 18 and February 6, 2024. It found that 47% of people who have used delivery apps had their most recent order delivered on the same day, with 50% citing convenience as the primary reason for using rapid-delivery services. A further three in 10 people said they had placed an order when already intoxicated.

Regular users of alcohol delivery services – those who order at least once a month – were reported to drink more than the UK average.

Alcohol Change UK also flagged concerns over ID checks when ordering alcohol, with only 22% of 18-25 year olds saying that they always have their ID checked on the doorstep.