Pernod Ricard is toasting a strong performance in the UK off-trade over the Christmas period.

The UK arm of the French drinks giant said late last week that it had bucked the trend in the country's spirits category over the key selling period.

Citing figures from AC Nielsen, Pernod noted that, in the eight weeks to 30 December, many of its core spirits brands performed well, despite a 1% slide in spirits sales in terms of value and a 4% dip in volumes over the two-month period.

In value terms, UK off-trade sales of Martell Cognac were up 19%. Over the same period, the Cognac category in the UK grew by only 2%, Pernod said. Other notable performers included Stolichnaya vodka - up 91% year-on-year, in a vodka category growing by 4% - and The Glenlivet single malt - up 107%, in a malt whisky category up 3%.

"We talked with our retail partners about driving the four high-value spirits categories: Cognac, malt whisky, imported whiskey and non-cream liqueurs for Christmas 2006 and we're pleased to see that played out in our great performance, in what was a tough market," said Simon Thomas, commercial director at Pernod Ricard UK.

"We also encouraged retailers to drive profit by featuring more premium brands in categories like vodka and rum, to allow customers to trade up," Thomas added. The performances of Havana Club (up 289%) and of Stolichnaya are testament to the success of this strategy."

Pernod declined to divulge actual UK sales figures for each of its spirits brands over Christmas.