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Bunkered-down Finns bought more booze last month

Alko reports it sold nine percent more alcohol in March than it did the same month last year.

Empty alcohol bottles, file photo. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

As the novel coronavirus spread across the country in March and Finnish consumers hoarded groceries and isolated themselves at home, they also bought more alcohol, according to sales figures from state booze monopoly Alko.

Finnish drinkers bought seven million litres of alcohol in March, while only 6.4 million litres were sold the same month a year ago - a 9.3 percent increase.

Consumers also bought significantly more booze from Alko in March than they did in February, as sales increased by just 2.3 percent compared to February last year. In January the difference was even starker, when sales ticked up by 1.3 percent compared to the same month in 2019.

Alko reported that sales increased across almost all categories. Finnish consumers bought up 27 percent more rosé wine, 20 percent more red wine and 14 percent more white wine.

In particular, sales of boxed wines which typically contain the equivalent of two or more regular bottles also increased, as well as bottled wines priced at 13-20 euros apiece.

Vodka and grain alcohol sales increased by 7.6 percent, with other spirits grew by 11 percent last month, year-on-year, according to the company.

Meanwhile, sales of beer, cider, alcohol-free beverages, sparkling as well as fortified wines decreased.

The novel coronavirus outbreak began to affect the mobility of many Finnish residents in the middle of last month as Estonia closed its borders on 17 March, preventing travel to the Baltic country where alcohol is significantly cheaper than in Finland. At the same time, the country began a new normal of social distancing and closed restaurants and bars.

"In exceptional cases, people are now buying some of the alcohol they had bought at restaurants and brought back home from trips abroad. This is reflected in sales figures," Alko CEO Leena Laitinen said in a company statement.

Over the weekend it was reported that a survey found social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines had not significantly affected alcohol consumption in Finland.