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Heatwave prompts sales boom in UK off-trade

Published:  05 August, 2013

The summer heatwave has seen sales in alcohol jump across the UK off-trade, with figures showing a "significant" rise on 2012 on top of last year's London Olympics and Silver Jubilee helping hand. 

John Hodges owner of The Vineyard in Dorking, said business had been "manic". "We are experiencing double summer figures on last year, which was also a good year for us."

Hodges said there have been a lot more weddings this year, which in his opinion suggests the economic climate is on the up. "Party buying has been busy, wholesale is busy and the shop is too. We are also selling a lot more Champagne than the past couple of years and a lot of draught beers. There are two breweries around Dorking and they can't keep up with the demand."

Ed Perfect owner of Haywards Heath wine merchant Grape & Grain, said the summer had been "great" for business with barbecues and outside events really pushing beer sales in particular. "Draught ales have seen the biggest increase (about 25%) with the good weather," said Perfect.

Other bestsellers have been "the usual suspects of Pimm's (especially when the supermarket runs out), rosé (I had my first request for rosé Port this summer), and I've also seen an increase in fruit liqueurs and other cocktail ingredients."

Perfect is also seeing a rise in big party orders. "Last year we were getting far fewer, many that were placed were being cancelled at the last minute."

Mark Pardoe MW, wine buying director at Berry Bros & Rudd, said it is having a good first quarter with figures up "significantly" on last year with sales on other goods making up for the en primeur shortfall. "There's a lot of footfall, and the current mood is optimistic. Drinking is also much less categorised than previous years; rather than sticking to the classic light aromatic summer drinking wines we are seeing moves towards aromatics from everywhere with a big push towards Italy and Spain. Red Beaujolais is also selling well on the back of a few good vintages."

Owner of Taurus Wines, Rupert Pritchett, said its sales have been up by over a quarter on 2012: "The sun remembering to come out this year has been rather good for trade which is especially pleasing as we did rather well with all the Jubi-lympic malarkey. It's the usual suspects driving the sales: Provençal rosé, Sauvignon Blanc and beers that can be drunk cold (golden ales as much as lagers)."

In the north of the country business has risen, however not quite to the extent of the south east. Jon Atkinson, manager of Wine Time at Scatchards, said: "Weather hasn't really influenced things as far as I can see, that is to say that we appear to be just as busy when it's raining as we are when it's cracking the flags."

Atkinson said: "June was (and usually is) quiet but steady, July was busy and up about 5% on last year whilst August has started like a train. The usual 'summer suspects' are selling in volume; Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and rosé, but so are Spanish reds."

While summer sales have been up for Huntley's Farm-based merchant Barrica Wines, in Preston, they have not "broken any records". However, owner Jane Cuthbertson thinks that is more due to where they are situated and because it is a destination point. "The wholesale side for us has suffered slightly because people don't really want to sit in the farm restaurants on a hot day or evening. Plus many people are opting to have barbecues and will want quantity not quality and will buy from the supermarkets."

Ben Stephenson, owner and founder of Hangingditch in Manchester is benefiting from its outside seating and has seen a rise in bar and beer sales. "It's been a mixed bag as the weather has been quite variable, but we've had some great days and estimate we are around 10%-15% up on last year." He adds, throughout the good weather Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has remained "as popular as ever".