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Retailers see strong Christmas trading

Published:  23 July, 2008


Wine retailers across the UK enjoyed a healthy Christmas trading period. Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR) and Lay & Wheeler both saw double-digit year-on-year growth, while Majestic's like-for-like sales rose by 4.4%.

BBR chief operating officer Robin McMillan told Harpers that the best-selling regions were its traditional strongholds of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Rhne, although the December-to-December increase came from almost all the great wine-producing regions of the Old and New Worlds'. McMillan added: Our website has performed particularly strongly this year, attracting 30% more customers than last year, and accounting for 14% of our overall business in December.'

Like-for-like sales at Majestic were up 4.4% for the nine weeks of Christmas trading from 31 October 2006 to 1 January 2007. Champagne sales were up 17%, and sales of wines priced over 20 per bottle rose by 25%. Tim How, Majestic's chief executive, said: Wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Spain and New Zealand sold particularly well, and Champagne sales continued to grow strongly.'

Despite reporting that wine sales were 60% up before Christmas due to the widespread distribution of a 40% discount card, which was originally intended for suppliers and their friends', Threshers declined to comment on its Christmas trading. A spokesman told Harpers that, unlike Majestic, Threshers was not on the stock exchange and therefore not obliged to comment.

At Lay & Wheeler, December figures showed double-digit percentage growth year-on-year. Of Lay & Wheeler's partnership with Wine Rack, chief operating officer Amanda Skinner said: Sales were fantastic at 50% over budget, and three times higher than last year.' Skinner attributed this success to Threshers' pre-Christmas 40% discount card, which may have encouraged consumers to trade up more than usual.

Lay & Wheeler's FT Fine Wine Plan showed sales significantly over budget in the Christmas period, with customers going for classic wines, although the scheme was launched only in December. Lay & Wheeler also runs the Waitrose En Primeur Service, which had its most successful year so far, with sales running surprisingly well, even up until Christmas'. Corporate sales were up year-on-year by 20%, which Skinner said was indicative of a good year, with plenty of office parties and presents'.

Oddbins' head buyer Emma Nichols chose not to comment on Christmas trading, as the full analysis has not been completed at the time of going to press.

Despite Majestic's strong performance over the festive season, it transpired that the company still asks its suppliers to cover the cost of its Christmas party drinks bill. Majestic throws an annual party for all its employees and their partners, but a spokeswoman confirmed that its suppliers provide the alcohol for the party free of charge, and always have done'.

Steve Lewis, Majestic's chief operating officer, said: This is not a sinister plot on our part to boost our bottom line. We don't want to be seen as money-grabbing.'