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‘Problems’ in France to blame for Champagne decline

“Problems” in the French market have affected the overall picture for Champagne shipments by volume in 2018, according to presidents of the Comité Champagne, Maxime Toubart and Jean-Marie Barillère.

2018 Champagne sales in France: ‘We would have to win the World Cup three times over to compensate for the losses caused by the gilets jaunes’

Speaking at a press briefing at ProWein on Sunday, Maxime Toubart, said that “problems” in France were damaging an otherwise positive picture for Champagne sales as a whole last year, referring in particular to the impact of mass demonstrations across the country by the so-called gilets jaunes.

“When France sneezes, then the overall market coughs,” he said, stressing the widespread affect of a percentage decline in Champagne sales in France.

As previously reported by db, total shipments of Champagne, which include the domestic market, were down by 5.4 million bottles in 2018, with France alone seeing a fall-off of 6.5m bottles.

While the UK also suffered a decline last year – with a drop in shipments to the market of 1m bottles (-3.6%) – it was France that really dented the final results for Champagne in 2018.

Highlighting the impact of falling sales in France, Jean-Marie Barillère said that the decline was the equivalent of losing an entire major market for Champagne.

Focusing on the decrease in value, rather than volume, he said that France had lost €40m worth of Champagne sales in 2018, taking the value of the domestic market down from €2.073bn to €2.036bn.

“If we lose a little bit of turnover in France it is very difficult for other countries to compensate, because it is such an important market,” he stated.

Explaining the decline, he said that research conducted by the Comité Champagne had shown that French consumers “still like Champagne”, but that the amount they buy is closely linked to the socio-economic situation in the nation.

“When the economy is in a difficult situation and when people have a pessimistic outlook, then they tend to drink less Champagne and choose other products that are less of a symbol of success and joie de vivre,” he said.

He then noted that he hoped a trend of declining sales of Champagne by value would stop in France. “We would like to stay above the €2bn level and stop this trend,” he stated.

Nevertheless, Barillère pointed out that Champagne had in fact achieved its highest ever figure in turnover, enjoying an increase of 2%, representing a rise of €140m on last year’s figure, taking the region close to a €5bn total.

However, in terms of volumes, such was the decline in France this year in contrast to Champagne’s performance in export markets, last year saw more Champagne consumed in foreign markets than France for the first time in over 50 years.

Although France has seen a gradual decline in Champagne sales by volume since 2010, last year’s figure was particularly bad due to demonstrations by the gilets jaunes, which began on 17 November, and were especially disruptive in the centre of Paris in the run up to Christmas – a key trading period for the top-end fizz.

Such was the impact of rioting in France’s capital towards the end of 2018, it more than offset any additional Champagne sales seen in the domestic market earlier on in the same year, which were due to France winning the World Cup, having beat Croatia in the final in July last year.

“We would have to win the World Cup three times over to compensate for the losses caused by the gilets jaunes,” said Toubart.

Total – Champagne shipments in 2018

Volume: 301.9m bottles (-1.8% vs 2017)

Value: €4.887bn (+0.3% vs 2017)

France – Champagne shipments in 2018

Volume: 147m bottles (-4.2% vs 2017)

Value: €2.036bn (-1.8% vs 2018)

Share by volume – Champagne shipments in 2018

France: 48.7%

European Union: 25.2%

Rest of the world: 26.1%

Share by value – Champagne shipments in 2018

France: 41.7%

European Union: 26.1%

Rest of the world: 32.2%

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