Strong champagne sales cheer Majestic

The drinks retailer Majestic Wine yesterday shrugged off any doubts of tough trading over the festive period by announcing good growth in sales of wine, champagne and beer.

Sales were up 7.4 per cent on a like-for-like basis at its UK stores in the eight weeks to 31 December. City analysts had been expecting growth of more like 4 to 5 per cent.

Tim How, the chief executive, said he was "very pleased" with the company's sales performance over the Christmas period and noted that wines from Bordeaux, the Loire, southern France, South Africa, New Zealand and Chile had all sold particularly well.

Sales of both champagne and beer were also up strongly over the key Christmas period despite earlier fears of a knock in consumer confidence.

"We continue to see a most encouraging increase in the number of customers on our database who have made purchases in the last 12 months, up by 10.1 per cent on this time last year to 320,000 customers," Mr How said.

David Stoddart, an analyst at the company's broker, Teather & Greenwood, lifted his pre-tax profit forecast yesterday to £10.4m from £10.2m on the back of the Christmas trading statement.

"The fact that Christmas trading hasn't turned out to be quite as poor as feared has helped. Champagne was clearly a good seller - we've heard that from Tesco and others - and Majestic is one of the leading sellers of champagne. And the underlying wine market has continued to grow," Mr Stoddart said.

The statement continues the solid trading trend reported at the half-year stage. Underlying sales in the six weeks to 15 November rose by 7.5 per cent. Majestic Wine, which owns 113 outlets in Britain and three in France, reported interim pre-tax profits of £4.2m, up from £2.6m a year ago.

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