spirits momentum Plans are being laid for another bumper pre Christmas sales period for spirits to follow the remarkable success of the category at the end of last year. UDV believes some permanent changes have been made in the way the fixture is marketed following the success of the techniques used to cope with the millennium demand. Most thought this would be a one off but UDV is hoping lessons have been learned from the experience. Spirits sales volumes in the off-trade grew 5% last year and were 11% up in the final eight weeks. UDV believes the impetus can be maintained and these volumes can be matched this year. Strategic category development director Nick Garland said: "The major operators can do the same again this year. We could see a permanent change in marketing techniques and we will encourage the supermarkets to change their way of thinking. "The off-trade is massively important to us as it handles 70% of spirits sales. It has been in slow growth, now it much more dynamic. "It is a high value, high risk category but there is potential for further growth." He said the trade is moving away from a huge range of activities to something which is much more focused. "If there are too many articles on promotion the consumer does not see them. Fewer offers make things much clearer. Bigger floor displays and fewer out-of-stocks are the key. The successful retailers reduced their out of stocks last year despite the pressure on sales." The stakes are high, but the figures show UDV got it right last year. Its key brands Baileys, Bell's, Gordon's, Smirnoff Red, Southern Comfort and Archers all recorded growth of over 30% in volume in December, compared to 1998. {{DRINKS }}