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Christmas boost for 2013 sales across on and off-trades

Published:  10 January, 2014

Despite the weather, most operators in the on- and off-trade had a great December. Gemma McKenna reports

Despite the weather, most operators in the on- and off-trade had a great December. Gemma McKenna reports

Retailers, merchants and restaurants across the country have reported strong Christmas and New Year sales with Prosecco and sparkling wines the big winners. Many operators also noted a return to the classic wine varieties, which had fallen out of favour in recent years.

In the off-trade, Tesco said that between Christmas and New Year sparkling wine sales were "up considerably" from last year. Its own-label Plaza Prosecco sales were up almost 200% while Finest Prosecco sales trebled.

Sainsbury's and Waitrose reported their best-ever Christmas trading periods, with Waitrose like-for-like sales up 4.1% for the 12 trading days to December 31. Prosecco sales at the retailer soared 43% year-on-year. Sainsbury's like-for-likes, excluding fuel, were up 0.2% in the 14 weeks to January 4, with the seven days before Christmas described as its "busiest ever" trading week.

Meanwhile Virgin Wines saw year on-year sales increase by 15% in December, and attracted 40,000 new customers, the highest number it has attracted in one month.

Majestic, which has just opened its 200th store, saw total sales grow 5.9% for the 10 weeks of Christmas trading from October 29 to January 6, with like-for-likes up 2.8%. Chief executive, Steve Lewis, said it saw strong growth in sales of fine wine above £20 per bottle.

December proved rewarding across the independent sector, with increases of up to 37% being reported. Brian Howells, of Fine Wines Direct UK in Cardiff, said December sales were 20% up on 2012, with sparkling and Prosecco in particular accounting for much of the increase.

Jamie Hutchinson, co-owner of the Sampler, said sales were "slightly up" on last year and noted a "return to the classics" as Bordeaux wines in the £10-£40 range started to sell again. Ted Sandbach, managing director of the Oxford Wine Company - sales up 7-8% on last year - identified a similar trend.

Hal Wilson, managing director of Cambridge Wine Merchants, said its December sales were up 20% on the previous year to £600,000 for the month. Meanwhile, Doug Wood of WoodWinters, said sales were up 37% overall. - with a lot of the growth in the wholesale side of the business.

End-of-year cheer for the on-trade

Early indications from the on-trade are good, although some outlets suffered due to the extreme weather over the Christmas period.

ETM group, which operates 10 gastropubs across central London, reported wine sales up by as much as 20% over Christmas, with the average bottle price up £4 on the previous year.

At London's Paramount venue at the top of Centrepoint, Adam Jannese, general manager, said it had a "tremendously successful month" with year-on-year increases at all sites across the three floors.

Bibendum's chief executive Michael Saunders said the firm delivered a "very pleasing" performance in December, with "a record number of orders in the week before Christmas".