Champagne sales go flat as Americans stop celebrating during coronavirus


With absolutely nothing to pop the bubbly over during the coronavirus pandemic, Champagne sales are fizzling out.

The widespread closure of restaurants and bars — not to mention cancelled events such as weddings, bar mitzvahs and sporting occasions — are causing the bottom to fall out of the market.

Despite other types of booze seeing a potentially dangerous amount of popularity during lockdown, global Champagne sales are forecast to fall by a third — the equivalent of 100 million bottles — in 2020, Champagne producers group CIVC told Reuters.

Lost revenue could total more than 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion) this year, and the slump shows no sign of reversing.

“When someone loses a job or someone dies in his family, they don’t want to celebrate, so we’ll certainly see that risk hitting us for several years,” CIVC co-chairman Maxime Toubart said.

The estimates are based on a staggering 75 % drop in April and May. CIVC predicted sales would remain below average until the end of the year, the festive holidays making little difference.

Toubart’s co-chairman Jean-Marie Bariellère said the organization hopes the situation will improve when “hotels, cafes and restaurants reopen and people return to a more normal and more optimistic life.”

But, he added, “It’s hard to say how fast that happens. We are preparing for difficult times ahead.”

The depressing downturn follows a record-breaking year in 2019 when Champagne producers sold nearly 300 million bottles for 5 billion euros.

Toubart said a rebound in sales to key export markets like the US would not be instant, especially in a country where a sharp rise in unemployment makes people less inclined to raise their flutes. The knock-on effect is that the price of some Champagne could fall later this year if vineyards seek to sell their surplus bottles in bargain sales.

In an effort to cut stocks, CIVC decided Thursday that some of this year’s grape harvest would not be allowed to be bottled until 2022.

It’s not just France that is affected. Spain’s cava makers also expect to be hit by the fallout from COVID-19. But Italian prosecco producers have seen sales edge higher.

This is in keeping with figures showing that people are generally drinking more at home to ease their sense of isolation during lockdown.

Off-premises sales of spirits in the US rocketed by more than a third (34.1 %) from last year for the nine-week period ending May 2, according to market research company Nielson. Wine sales went up 30.1 % while beer sales rose by 12.6 %.

Meanwhile, spare a thought for the people of South Africa, where alcohol sales have been completely banned since social-distancing began. The rule has been enforced in an effort to reduce problems including traffic accidents and domestic violence.


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