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Booze cruise blues

The future of the traditional Dover-Calais booze cruise is in doubt as Sainsbury’s announced it is to shut down its Calais branch this month and Tesco has entered consultations over its Vin Plus store.

Reports suggest that Tesco’s Calais store made €13 million in turnover in 2008/9, down from its peak annual revenue of €50m.

A Tesco spokesman said: “Cross-Channel shopping has been in decline for a number of years following the changes to EU duty free rules.
“More and more consumers are also switching to the internet to buy alcohol in bulk as this is increasingly a more convenient and affordable option than travelling to the continent.”  

Consultations are still ongoing over Tesco Vin Plus, while the Sainsbury’s store is currently selling all its stock and is set to close by 30 June.

Neither publicly discloses their revenues, but indications are that the Sainsbury’s site had a turnover of €8m in 2008/9, which was then split between the UK supermarket and its French partner Auchan.

A spokesman said the store would close after 16 years of trading, because it was no longer “economically viable”.

Sainsbury’s is the latest store to shut in the French port after Oddbins closed for relocation in January this year.

Marco Attard, director of Calais Wine Superstore, said: “I think last year was the toughest year for Cross-Channel trade, but things have definitely cheered up since then.

“People were looking at it and thinking ‘Is the writing on the wall?’ From what we’ve seen this year, we don’t think it is.”

Attard, whose store opened this month, added: “The make-up is changing in Calais. In the UK it seems to be going more towards the independents, and it seems to be the same out there.

“We believe there is still a market out there. It’s not what it used to be – everyone knows that. There is still a market though for the legal, personal imports.”

Majestic, who wrote down the value of its Wine and Beer World business by £5.3m in 2009, reported a 19% increase this week in year-on-year sales for February to June 2010.  

The retailer’s three Wine and Beer World stores in northern France made pre-tax profits of £416,000 (£405,000) in the year up to March 2010, although their sales were down 28%.

Steve Lewis, Majestic’s chief executive, said: “The continued strength of the euro relative to sterling over the past year has contributed to the reduction in sales.

“However, the differential in duty rates between the UK and France remains substantial and there is a strong core of customers wishing to take advantage of these savings.”

Dan Macadam, 28.06.2010

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