It's boom, not bust, with wine sales defying recession fears

28 August, 2008

Stay-at-home culture drives diners to trade up and treat with independents

Despite bleak retail figures and predictions that the UK is only months away from recession, independent wine merchants are toasting a boom in sales.

The sector is benefiting from

the downturn in consumer confidence which has seen diners abandon restaurants in favour of eating at home.

Matt Harris, owner of Planet of the Grapes in central London, said the company's two shops were booming. "There is definitely a credit crunch of some description, and people are getting frigh tened by the housing market, but the people in the City are still getting paid and still getting bonuses," he explained.

"We've just ha d the best day

ever , taking £13,500 in the bar and shop. It's a proper two-fingers to the recession."

The Secret Cellar in Tunbridge Wells also reported brisk trade. "We're seeing year-on-year growth," said owner David Hemsley. "The very top end has slowed a bit - the first growths and what have you - because the big corporate people are cutting back a bit.

"But we always do well with £10 and above. Talking to customers, I'm finding that people are not going out to eat as much because they're getting a bit scared but they are treating themselves to better wine. People who would normally spend £5 or £6 are adding a few bottles above £10 to their mixed cases."

Tom Innes, owner of Irma Fingal-Rock in Monmouth, said sales since May are 40% up on the same period in 2007. He admits his own fears about the economy have made him more efficient - and an enlarged sales area has helped.

"I've been here a long time and when people get jumpy about things they want to make sure they're getting value for money - and they know they can trust me," he said.

"Basically the high street chains have had it, in my opinion. That competition doesn't exist any more for an independent like me, and the multiples just do bogofs and brands."

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