ALCOHOL sales slumped over the festive season, as cash-strapped Britons slashed their Christmas drinking bills, a new report has shown.
Statistics from the market analysts Nielsen show the trade suffered a hefty hangover as volume sales plummeted across all off-trade formats – 4 per cent in supermarkets and 4.4 per cent in smaller stores.
They also represent an acceleration of the decline in sales, as volumes for the full year were down 2.9 per cent.
The fall-off in sales affected almost all categories. Off-trade beer and cider sales were both down 3.1 per cent, still wine sales fell 2.4 per cent and spirits declined by 1.9 per cent.
The only significant area of volume growth came from sparkling wine, up 6.7 per cent, but with an accompanying 7.1 per cent fall for champagne. Industry experts suggested shoppers were simply looking for a cheaper alternative.
William Boyack, of Wine & Spirit Trade Association, said: “The figures follow a trend of reduced sales since the beginning of 2011. This is a clear indication that consumers are continuing to feel the pinch.
“The fall in champagne sales and increase in sparkling wine reinforce its growing popularity, but also suggests consumers are continuing to seek more affordable alternatives.
“We know that since 2004 overall alcohol consumption per head has fallen by 13 per cent without minimum pricing, calling into question the government’s rationale for such a blunt instrument.
“Minimum unit pricing is an untargeted and unproven approach that will punish responsible consumers.”
The Wine & Spirit Trade Association said the latest sales figures were further evidence against the need to add any more to the price of alcohol. It recently published the results of a survey which found that fewer than one in five UK consumers support minimum pricing.