Last minute champagne sales stem 2013 decline

PARIS Wed Jan 15, 2014 12:54pm EST

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PARIS Jan 15 (Reuters) - Higher-than-expected Christmas and New Year champagne sales halved the industry's predicted drop in sales in 2013 to 1.5 percent, a second straight year of decline as economic woes in France and the EU send customers looking for cheaper options.

Some 304 million bottles of champagne were sold worldwide last year, down 1.5 percent from 2012, but revenues were down 2.5 percent to 4.3 billion euros ($5.9 billion), producers' group CIVC said on Wednesday.

Producers last month had forecast a fall of between three and four percent in volume and thought revenue would be flat at best.

A record 339 million bottles were sold in 2007 before the global economic and financial crises began weighing on the market.

"The month of December, which accounts for nearly 15 percent of annual sales, partially offset the decline in sales observed previously. It totals about 42 million bottles, or 8 percent more than in December 2012," the Comite Interprofessionel des Vins de Champagne said in a statement.

Sales fell 2.3 percent in France to 167 million bottles and shipments to other countries of the 28-member European Union, where the UK is the largest export market, dropped 3.4 percent to 74 million bottles.

In contrast, they rose 3.2 percent in the rest of the world to 63 million bottles. These markets, led by the U.S. and the second largest Japan, beat records set last year and now account for more than 20 percent of volumes sold and over 25 percent of the industry's revenues, the industry body said.

The world of champagne is dominated by luxury group LVMH , which owns best-sellers Moet & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot on top of Dom Perignon, Ruinart and Krug brands, Lanson BCC and Laurent Perrier.

Specialist champagne-makers also include Vranken and drinks group Pernod Ricard's Mumm and Perrier-Jouet brands.

($1 = 0.7306 euros) (Reporting by Pascale Denis, writing by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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