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French spirits sales hit by 'yellow vest' protests last year

PARIS (Reuters) - Sales of spirits in France fell last year, hurt by "yellow vest" anti-government protests that were at their peak during the end of the year period that accounts for a bulk of sales, French spirits association FFS said on Wednesday.

Protests late last year, which saw some of the worst street violence in Paris in decades and blocked access to shopping malls around the country, cost 0.1 percentage point of French growth in the fourth quarter last year, the INSEE statistics agency said in March.

The weekly protests gradually waned this year.

In 2018, spirits sales in French supermarkets fell 2.1% in volume to 275 million liters, and fell 1.34% in value to 4.72 billion euros compared to the year earlier, FFS said.

Not all spirits performed poorly. Sales of rum showed a 5.7% rise in value and 3.3% rise in volume, while sales of gin increased by 7.6% in value and 2.4% in volume, boosted by innovation and higher qualities.

Spirits exports hit a record high of 4.3 billion euros in 2018, up 1.8% on 2017, mainly boosted by Cognac, liqueurs and rum sales. The volume exported stood at 445 millions liters, or 53 million 12-bottle boxes, up 1.9% on the year.

This confirmed data from wine and spirits exporters group FEVS in February.

Looking ahead, FFS warned that a food law implemented in February raising the minimum price at which retailers can sell goods had added between 5% and 8% to spirit prices, but that only benefited retailers and not producers.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, editing by Inti Landauro and Deepa Babington)

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