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Fizz falls flat as 2009 brings 9% drop for Champagne

A strong performance by Champagne in the final two months of 2009 in both France and the UK failed to prevent a global sales drop of 9% for the year, with value falling 17% compared to 2008.

The figure could have been a lot worse given the impact of the global economic crisis, which threatened to decimate sales of top-end Champagne.

Sales remained stable in France, where 181 million bottles were sold – just as many as in 2008.

Two months of strong trading in the run-up to Christmas in the UK helped record 3% growth in both volume and value in the take-home market for the year, according to ACNielsen, but other export markets were not as successful.

Official figures from trade body Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins de Champagne (CIVC) show exports to the rest of the world saw a 25.1% drop to 41.7m bottles.

Significant declines were posted in the US and Japan, while sales in Russia, China, India and Brazil all failed to live up to expectations.

However, industry figures are optimistic that 2010 will see a return to growth for Champagne, with many pointing to the fact the 9% global decline was an improvement on harvest-season estimates.

Champagne Lanson CEO Philippe Barijot said the figures represented “an honourable result”, but Michel Letter, CEO of Mumm and Perrier-Jouët, pointed out that “a big part of this was cheap brands” following heavy discounting in many markets towards the end of the year.

Any recovery may already have come too late for production staff at Piper-Heidsieck, where 25% of the workforce could be set to lose their jobs as the Rémy Cointreau-owned house tries to offset losses suffered in the nine months to September 2009.

Alan Lodge, 08.02.2010

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