Britons' love affair with cross-channel shopping appears to be on the wane after specialist retailer Majestic Wine reported a 4.3 per cent decline in like-for-like sales from its French outlets in the six months to September.
The group, which operates three superstore warehouses in Northern France, said the number of UK shoppers visiting French ports had fallen dramatically over the past year.
"The so-called boozecruise market that we had a few years ago has virtually disappeared," group chief executive Tim How said.
"The value differential is still there, a saving of about #1.50 on a bottle of French still wine, but the loss of some ferry routes and the special fare promotions when you could cross the
Channel for a pound means that the spontaneous oneday traveller has almost disappeared."
Mr How said that while French sales had been "disappointing", the three warehouses - two in Calais and one in Cherbourg - continued to make a strong cash contribution to the company.
"Pre-ordering for a big event such as a wedding is now proving increasingly popular and this accounted for just over a quarter of our French sales in the period, " he continued. Majestic continued its record of strong growth after a 5.5 per cent rise in like-for-like sales and an 18 per cent jump in profits.
The group, which operates from 124 sites, said it had bucked the challenging retail environment by communicating more frequently with customers and introducing a series of new shorter promotions.
Strong demand for wines from Spain, California, Chile and Argentina also helped lift sales in the half year to #80.8 million, from #74.6 million last time, while profits for the six months to September 26 reached #5.9 million.
The average bottle price of still wine purchased at Majestic lifted to #5.54 from #5.46 while the average spend per transaction rose #5 to #115.
That was after a 43 per cent increase in sales of fine wines priced at #20 and above, as customers " traded up" to more expensive varieties.
The group is also laying down plans to have at least 200 stores over the medium term and will push ahead with its current roll-out plans which envisages 127 by the close of the current financial year to the end of next March.
Shareholders will receive an interim dividend of 1.9p a share, an increase of 26.7 per cent on a year earlier.