Majestic Wine is trialling a minimum purchase of six bottles rather than its usual 12 after like-for-like sales slumped 2.9% over Christmas.

The six-bottle minimum is being tested in six stores, although there is still a minimum spend of 12 bottles or £50 to qualify for free delivery. The scheme had been introduced in response to customer surveys - not to boost turnover in response to the downturn in sales, claimed chief executive Steve Lewis.

"A lot of new customers said they would appreciate the opportunity to buy six bottles instead of 12," he said. "So far the results of the trial are encouraging."

Majestic has also introduced The Knowledge, a free two-hour course designed to educate consumers about wine. It has been introduced in 50 stores and would eventually be extended to the other 100.

Lewis admitted the current economic climate was difficult but said the chain's customer service, quality offering and pricing would enable it to compete.

The fall in like-for-like sales in the 10 weeks to 5 January was down to corporate clients cutting costs, he said, adding that sales to private customers were holding up well.

The collapse in the value of sterling had put pressure on prices but Majestic was increasingly looking to markets such as South Africa and New Zealand that were more affordable.

Majestic would not get involved in a price war with the supermarkets, added Lewis.

"We have a good core proposition and are sticking to what makes us special. We are not going down the value road or entering a price war. We maintained our margins over Christmas."

Meanwhile, upmarket off-licence Nicolas also said it won't be increasing its promotions or offering cheaper wine.

"We believe in French wine at a good price and don't want to be a discounter," said MD Eudes Morgan. "Our customers prefer consistency of price and quality."

Nicolas made a pre-tax loss of £1.5m in the year ending December 2007.