Blog: Chris Brook-CarterWelcome back

Chris Brook-Carter | 6 January 2005

Welcome back from what were, for many I expect, slightly subdued New Year celebrations. Our deepest sympathies here at just-drinks go out to all those caught up in the terrible events that have unfolded in front of a shocked world in South-East Asia in the last fortnight.

The devastation wrought by the earthquake makes talking business seem a little inconsequential. The hard truth, however, is that, like other natural (and man-made) disasters in the recent past – such as SARS, bird flu and the Iraq War – this will have an impact on international trade and therefore the drinks industry.

There are few early signs yet about how Christmas trading went, but those that are in are painting a mixed picture. The UK’s Majestic Wine said today that like-for-like sales were up by 10.4% for the nine weeks of Christmas trading.

The UK economy in general seems to have performed patchily. The FTSE 100 finished the year with a 7.5% gain despite battling against high oil prices and rising interest rates. A number of leading high street retailers have already reported a tough end to the year, however.

In the US, beer giant Anheuser-Busch has announced that its Q4 beer shipments to US wholesalers decreased by 1.5%. Meanwhile, wholesaler sales-to-retailers were down 0.3% for the full year and decreased 3.2% in the fourth quarter.

Looking ahead, the global economic outlook for 2005 could be "pretty dull", according to at least one report just-drinks has read, with economists blaming the absence of a US presidential election and the lack of a global sporting event for subdued market predictions.

It is in these quieter times that the drinks industry has excelled in the past compared to other sectors on the world’s stock markets. But with one of its key growth markets struggling to come to terms with the earthquake, 2005 looks all the more challenging.


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