Bunhill: Pass the Pimms

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FORGET theeconomists. Evidence that the country is truly on the move reaches me from Gardner Merchant, Europe's largest contract caterer and hospitality specialist.

The company, bought by the management from Forte for pounds 402m at the end of 1992, supplies food and drink at events such as the Chelsea Flower Show, Henley Regatta, Wimbledon and the Derby.

Back in 1989, considered by most to bethe year that the boom peaked, the company was selling 70 tons of salmon, 250,000 pints of Pimms, 40 tons of strawberries and 50,000 bottles of champagne.

Then, as corporate belt tightening took hold, sales slumped. People just didn't have the money, and the upward line on the gorging graph came to an abrupt halt.

But things are truly on the move. Take, for instance, champagne. According to the Gardner Merchant Economic Indicator sales are nearing their 1989 high and have risen for the third year in a row. Sales of Pimms are on the up, too.

More interesting perhaps is the sale of mineral water, which now exceeds its 1980s high by a hefty margin. I'm not quite sure if that is a good sign or a bad one.