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Major wine retailers boast mixed fortunes over Christmas

Published:  07 January, 2015

Majestic Wine saw sales creep up 1.1% over a "difficult Christmas" while Waitrose celebrated a bumper 15.4% increase in BWS sales over the same period last year.

Majestic Wine saw sales creep up 1.1% over a "difficult Christmas" while Waitrose celebrated a bumper 15.4% increase in BWS sales over the same period last year.

Wine at ChristmasMajor retailers had mixed fortunes in wine over the Christmas period.

Majestic, which operates more than 200 stores in the UK, said total sales for the 10 weeks from October 28, 2014 to January 5, 2015, were up 3.7%. Over the same period like for like UK store sales growth was 1.1%. This brings like for like UK store sales growth to 2% for the first 40 weeks of the financial year.

The group said the Christmas trading period was "particularly challenging" characterised by increased levels of competitive promotional activity to attract customers into store and online. However the company lost 50 basis points of gross margin to ensure pricing remained competitive.  

Chief executive Steve Lewis said: "Majestic delivered like for like sales growth of 1.1% in a difficult Christmas trading period characterised by promotional activity and we are now focused on delivering our final quarter's trading. We anticipate this competitive pricing environment will continue throughout much of 2015."

Meanwhile Waitrose was toasting a double digit festive fillip, with like for likes up 15.4% in its "stellar Christmas week". Its average bottle price also climbed to £8.19 in December, up £0.69 versus the rest of 2014. Aside from the usual Christmas stalwarts, it saw success with Spanish and Austrian wines, while English wines skyrocketed with a 193% increase.

Anne Jones, category manager for wines, beers and spirits, said: "We've been thrilled with our end the year sales which showed a positive like for like increase, after a stellar Christmas week, with sales up 15.4% on last year.

"While Champagne and sparkling sales bubbled well as expected with strong double digit increases, we're also delighted to see other categories doing well, such as Spain up 70% year on year, Austria +31% and especially England and Wales, with sales up a huge 193%.

"This is a testament to plenty of hard work behind the scenes on range, availability, value, quality and service, especially of our partners and specialists on shop floors up and down the country."

Sainsbury's Q3 trading results, released this morning, showed like-for-like sales down 1.7% (excluding fuel) across all categories. Although there is little specific information on BWS, anecdotally it said customers traded up over Christmas, with sales of its premium Taste the Difference range up 5% year-on-year. Its TtD Conegliano Prosecco grew by over 30% in that period. Overall the supermarket said it had a "record-breaking week before Christmas" with over 29.5 million customer transactions. It said the outlook for the remainder of its financial year was "challenging". 

Although Oddbins does not comment on sales figures as it is a private company, it told that prior to Christmas it gave three categories extra focus and "they ended up delivering some big numbers for us" - Bordeaux, North America and Germany. "Champagne also delivered a big sales increase for us, with lots of our sparkling wines customers trading up to two specific brands,". a spokesman said.

Harpers yesterday reported that independent wine merchants across the country were toasting a bumper Christmas, with sales particularly strong outside of London, as recession started to lift in the regions.