While figures released by the Wine & Spirits Trade Association showed the £331m off-trade market was flat year-on-year, data for the summer months indicated off-trade sales had fallen 23% by volume and 13% by value since the previous quarter [Nielsen 12w/e 6 August 2011].
Tesco's Champagne sales had been strong over the past year, the retailer said but it admitted they had slowed in the past 12 weeks. Increased purchases during the Royal Wedding and the double bank holiday had made for challenging comparisons, said wine category manager Claire Lorains, adding that price had also been a factor.
"While customers are still celebrating key occasions with Champagne, they are also keen to ensure they get a bargain, so are switching within the wine category or waiting for deals," she explained.
Nielsen analyst Stewart Blunt said the decline was largely due to a lack of promotions. However, trade body Champagne Bureau UK said the quarterly figures were not surprising given the economic backdrop.
Among the labels hit by the summer slump was Sainsbury's exclusive Etienne Dumont, which enjoyed strong 52-week sales up 58% by value and 61% by volume but fell 31% by value and 36% by volume over the quarter [SymphonyIRI 12w/e 13 August]. Moët & Chandon was down 12% by value and 18% by volume over the period, although Lanson the top brand in supermarkets, according to IRI data fared better, up 20.7% by volume and 25% by value.
"Some brands haven't been doing well, which is why we've put a lot of work into our own label," said Xenia Irwin, Spar wine trading controller. Value sales of Spar's own-label Marquis Belrive Champagne (rsp: £22.99) were up 268% for the year to the end of August, she added.
Shoppers were favouring sparkling wines such as prosecco as a cheaper Champagne alternative, said Mintel senior drinks analyst Jonny Forsyth.