December 29, 2008

Slow champagne sales greet new year

Fewer corks flying and fewer cascades of overflowing champagne will usher in 2009, as U.S. consumers cut back on spending, an industry expert predicts.

I don't have a bright outlook for champagne this year, Impact research director Frank Walters told USA Today.

Luxury items are getting hurt, people are looking for value, restaurants are getting clobbered and with unemployment rising, people are watching their shekels, Walters said.

As demand has slackened, grocery stores are lowering prices almost to cost, said Gary Heck, president of Korbel Champagne Cellars. Most stuff is down by $2 to $3 across the board, he said.

On the higher shelves, Moet & Hennessy is trying to reach wealthy consumers with an offer of three bottles of vintage Dom Perignon priced at $1,500, the newspaper said.

Remy Cointreau USA is attempting to reach some customers with a custom-made, collectible bottle designed by a French jewelry maker for its Piper-Heidsieck Rare. Our customers understand the value of our product, said company spokeswoman Marie Batich.

Remy also is going with another retail tradition: Free samples, the newspaper said.