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US wine buyers regaining confidence – just

US wine consumers are - very slowly - regaining confidence in the economy, if Mintel's figures are anything to go by.

According to the independent marketing research group, retail wine sales in 2008 dropped 3.2% to $27bn but sales are expected to rise in 2009 to $27.6bn, an increase of 2.1%.

This indicates that consumer confidence was better in 2009 than in 2008, Mintel analyst Garima Goel Lal said.

To account for estimated higher sales in 2009, Goel Lal told decanter.com that prices for wines have increased on average this year, and that wine drinkers who also drink spirits are purchasing more wine to save money.

The report says domestic wine sales outpaced imported wines, partly because of the unfavourable dollar exchange rate. ‘Domestic table wines have collectively managed to post growth amid the recession mainly because they have a pricing advantage,’ the report said.

‘The segment benefits from wine drinkers who are trading down from more expensive imported wines, which, on average, cost 35% more than domestics.’

Some retailers, like Doug Jeffirs, director of wine sales at Binny’s Beverage Depot – a chain of 24 wine shops in the Chicago area – see no difference in sales but more customers.

‘We have seen the average ticket go down, but the customer count is up,’ Jeffirs told decanter.com. He also confirmed what was said in the report about increased sales of domestic wines.

For retailers who specialise in imported wines it is too early to talk about recovery. ‘People used to spend a lot of money for a bottle of wine; now they spend a moderate amount,’ said Shemsedin Hassen of Arrow Wine in Arlington, Virginia, a wealthy suburb of Washington DC.

‘The exchange rate is killing us but I think it will get better.’

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Written by Panos Kakaviatos

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