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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Christian Davis

Cross-Channel alcoholic drinks sales in the Pas de Calais are continuing to fall, with sales between 20 and 25% down on last year, according to Rob Nichols, general manager of Sainsbury's Calais store. Nichols told Harpers that while the overall cross-Channel market is significantly down, the 1,800m2 Sainsbury's store adjoining the Auchan hypermarket - which accounts for between 7 and 10% of the multiple retailer's alcoholic drinks business and recently celebrated its 10th anniversary - is only 4% down. The slump in shopping trips across the Channel is accounted for by the recent strength of the euro; the end of duty free, with many of the cheap deals for ferry crossings drying up as a result; a 40% tax increase by the French government on tobacco duty; a clampdown by British Customs & Excise; and cheap flights to destinations such as Barcelona. On the plus side, Nichols said his customers spend 400% more time on choosing their wines, spirits and beers than in the UK'. Exactly half of his customers come from the south-east of England and 98% are British. French customers shop mainly for Port and whisky. When asked how Sainsbury's managed to buck the downward trend, Nichols said the company has an online mailing list of 150,000 customers and offers them numerous deals to shop at Sainsbury's Calais, such as discounted tickets with P&O Ferries and offers on local restaurants. The average price for a 5 Australian wine is 3.50 in Calais while 20+ fine wines sell for 14/15.