Bullish Christmas sales a boost to the industry

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Wine retailers are bullish about their Christmas sales, with early indications suggesting that a late surge may have compensated for a sluggish start to the festive period. according to a report in today's issue of Harpers. 

Hew Blair, chairman of Justerini & Brooks, said: "Christmas went remarkably well. Everyone had a quiet October but I think we've pretty well caught up with volumes.

"We've sent our January sale out and there's tremendous demand for that. With 2007 Burgundy we'll see how consumers are feeling, because there's quite a lot of wine to be shared about. By the end of January we'll have a fair idea of what the situation is - but people are definitely looking for a bargain."

Tom Innes, owner of Irma Fingal-Rock in Monmouth, said Christmas had been "good across the board".

He added: "Mail order and shop sales have been good - December overall is more than 12% ahead of last year. Overall the year is 17% ahead. We're in for some significant price increases this year but luckily I've bought a lot of stock because I had the cash."

Waitrose admitted that sales in the weeks leading up to Christmas were "a little slow", but reported a 9.8% increase in wine sales overall in the six weeks from November 26.

The retailer said South African sales were up 46%, New Zealand by 44%, Champagne by 28% and sparkling wine by 21%. A spokeswoman said: "Promotions have been strong throughout the last four to five months, but in the three weeks around Christmas, non-promotional sales really came into their own."

Dewi Williams, ASDA's BWS marketing manager, said: "We exceeded all exceptions this Christmas. Customers took advantage of our three-for-£10 deal ably supported by Champagne and sparkling wine. New World wines were our big performers with South Africa leading the way with 169% year on year growth."

Nielsen analyst Stewart Blunt warned that expectations should not be raised unduly about Christmas wine sales.

"We can't get too excited about a big recovery," he said. "In the four weeks to mid December we're looking at a wine market down by 2%. There was a huge amount of doom and gloom and we can't expect that last two weeks of December to have been brilliant."

* A full version of this story can be read in today's issue of Harpers, January 9. 

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