Bubbly times Down Under

Champagne sales increased in Australia last year despite the downturn in the local retail market.

While the outlook may be bleak for in the retail sector Down Under, there still seems to be no shortage of Australian drinkers reaching for the bubbly.

Not only that, but they are willing to spend top dollar for Champagne brands rather than opting for local fizz.

Even with the fear of shrinking disposable incomes – with energy prices hiking up and additional taxes on the horizon – Boris de Vroomen, managing director of Moët Hennessy Australia, believes that champagne is one of the strongest sectors in the Australian market, having grown 15% year-on-year in 2010.

De Vroomen told the Sydney Morning Herald that consumers were “trading up” to more expensive brands, saying: “The premium segment is growing well while the overall wine market is not in a great shape at all.”

A large portion of the volumes have been attributed to sales at discounted prices, but this has not stopped Moët Hennessy Australia more than doubling its profits for the year to AUD$7.6 million (£5.01m).

“Generally we don’t like to see our brands being discounted,” said de Vroomann, before adding: “Ultimately it’s the retailer’s choice if they want to make the right margin but if you look at it in a global context, the pricing in Australia (of Champagne) is quite aligned with the rest of the world.”

Another reason for the sales increase is the strengthening of the Australian dollar, making the leading imported brands more accessible and cheaper.

This could also contribute to the increase in imports in 2010 to Australia by 25% to nearly 3.7m bottles.

The trend that appears to be global, with exports from the Champagne region increasing by 19.5% to nearly 134.5m bottles.

Britain is still the world’s biggest importer of Champagne, with 35.5m bottles landing on UK shores in 2010, and increase of 16.3% on 2009.

Champagne sales within the UK are expected to show a further increase for 2011 and 2012 due to events such as the Royal Wedding and the London 2012 Olympics.

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