Alcohol, Grocery Deliveries Spike As Blizzard Batters Boston

Food, toilet paper … and booze?

The list of essential items Bostonians and New Yorkers stocked up on in preparation for the first blizzard of 2015 has grown to include alcoholic beverages, at least according to Drizly, a Boston-based startup that enables users to order beer, wine, and liquor that is delivered to their doors.

On Monday, Drizly said deliveries in Boston and New York increased by 235 percent over a typical winter Monday as people hunkered down before the blizzard.

Bostonians were the most prepared, or at least the bigger users, with a 345 percent spike. It was probably the right call, as some areas received more than 2 feet of snow and were blasted by heavy winds.

Jaded New Yorkers were less concerned, and deliveries only increased 117 percent. Despite all the Snowmageddon fanfare, the winter storm largely spared the Big Apple the worst of it, with only a few inches of snow falling. A number of meteorologists have gone so far as to apologize for their forecasts.

Still, through 2 p.m. Monday, the number of deliveries in both markets was 477 percent greater than the average day over the past four weeks. Given the time frame, you can reasonably say that Drizly users were better prepared for the storm than they were for New Year’s Eve.

All those orders were before most deliveries in those areas stopped as the liquor stores Drizly works with closed and communities instituted driving and parking bans.

Drizly users who didn’t prepare in advance—or maybe those who exhausted their supplies during the snowstorm-turned-bender—should take heart. The company continues to monitor developments to see when deliveries can resume, although the liquor stores the company works with will determine that, according to company spokeswoman Kerry McGovern. Drizly’s apps and website take orders and handle billing, but fulfilling and delivery is the responsibility of the stores.

“We should know more from our retail partners in a few hours if and when they will be reopening,” McGovern said. “They are the ones that make the deliveries and decide whether or not to stay open or close.”

McGovern also said the startup continues to pull together data and crunch numbers to see if any other interesting trends appear.

Nick Rellas and Justin Robinson, two Boston College graduates, founded Drizly in 2013, and the company has expanded into 12 markets since then. The company has raised $4.8 million from investors, including Gary Vaynerchuk, an angel investor and early backer of Twitter and Uber.

In its short history, the company has never seen weather-related situation like this one, McGovern said.

Oh, and just for reference. According to weather.com, in Denver and Los Angeles, two cities Drizly serves, temperatures are expected to reach 71 and 73 degrees, respectively. In Vail, CO, the famous ski resort in the Rocky Mountains and the market Drizly serves that would presumably have the worst winter weather, the forecast is for a high of 48 and it might snow later tonight.

Drizly isn’t the only startup grappling with the blizzard. Grocery delivery service Instacart on Monday said the storm affected delivery windows and inventory. According to Twitter, the company is working to restore service.

Kimberly Reisman, Instacart’s manager in Boston, said the company saw “a major pickup” in advance orders.

“During the hours leading up to the storm, Instacart made a huge push to bring on additional shoppers so that we could serve as many customers as possible while it was still safe to be out and about,” she said. “We operated until late last night, and we will be up and running again as soon as it’s safe for our drivers to be back on the roads.”

Reisman said Instacart users were planning for the long haul. “Our average basket size versus the previous week increased by 20 percent—customers were preparing for a few days without access to roads and businesses,” she said.

They mostly turned to winter storm staples like produce, canned goods, water, chicken soup, and hot cocoa.

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