The pre-Christmas sales peak was later than ever according to drinks suppliers, who said aggressive pricing had led to big gaps on retailers' shelves. Pernod Ricard general manager Ian Tottman said sales in the early part of December were lower than those in 2000 but were bolstered by a late rush, particularly on wine. The same pattern was confirmed by the brewers. Scottish Courage marketing director Brian Sharp said his company's beer sales in multiple grocers in the final week were up 56% on last year. Bass sales director John Holberry said: "We had a magnificent Christmas with volume growth of around 20%. "We all got hit by the retailers introducing silly prices, but this year we had the right levels of display for our brands." Holberry also claimed that Sainsbury's decision to sell 24-can cases of Carling for £9.99 had failed to win the chain new customers. "I don't think consumers switched to them," he added. "Our data shows the best performing retailer for Carling was not Sainsbury." {{DRINKS }}