Champagne makers hope for end of year sales bubble

Tue Dec 9, 2008 10:26am EST
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By Pascale Denis

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Champagne makers are hoping to hear the sound of corks popping this festive season to drown the gloom of a year that has seen sales volumes drop as a global economic downturn bites.

Champagne sales were down 4.9 percent in the first 10 months of the year and in October alone sales volumes fell 16.5 percent to 36.2 million bottles, according to data from the CIVC industry body.

This is the first fall in the Champagne market since 2000, though that comparison was distorted by high sales from the previous year when customers stocked up to celebrate the new millennium.

Last year sales volumes rose almost 6 percent to a record 430 million bottles, worth 4.6 billion euros ($5.9 billion) in revenue.

"Without being truly worried, the profession is tense," said CIVC spokesman Daniel Lorson, adding that price rises should still push annual turnover higher.

"End of year sales can come through very late," he said.

"The psychological element will be key. Today, it is very hard to make predictions, given the lack of visibility and an element of irrationality that is not negligible."

October saw Champagne sales in France, which accounts for 55 percent of the total, drop 11.7 percent for a 10-month decline of 5 percent. In the European Union, an 18.6 percent fall in October led sales 4.5 percent lower in January to October.   Continued...

<p>A champagne glass is seen in front of a tray of make-up before the Rock and Republic fashion show during New York Fashion Week, February 3, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>