Majestic Wine’s interim results showed their customary sparkle as sales and profits advanced again.

Majestic Wine’s interim results showed their customary sparkle as sales and profits advanced again.

As retailers try to work out how consumers are feeling and behaving, and whether the conditions that prevailed in the downturn are easing, Majestic provided a stat that makes for conversation around the water-cooler or over a restorative glass of something stronger: prosecco sales climbed 39% in its first half while sales of champagne were flat.

Prosecco of course, like cava, has established a firm reputation as good-quality fizz worth buying in its own right.

But is its increased popularity illustrative of a longer-term shopper trend to seek out quality that doesn’t come with a champagne-style price tag? It is a trend evident in the rise of grocers such as Aldi that are rapidly gaining kudos for quality as well as value.

Asda’s latest Income Tracker data gives some cause for cautious optimism. It showed that October brought an end to three consecutive months of falling disposable income.

However, it is also worth noting that the average family only had £158 a week of discretionary spend that month, unchanged year on year. Wage growth was at its lowest in more than a decade in the three months to September and consumers faced steep rises in energy costs.

Majestic’s customer base is at the upper end of the scale, but there is plenty of evidence that the middle classes’ spending habits have changed during the years of recession and austerity, as have those of the less well off.

In parts of the country hardest hit during the downturn life still looks tough, even if looked at through the bottom of a prosecco glass.

No wonder retailers are pulling out all the stops this Christmas with ads designed to restore a sense of magic and sparkle to top lines.

Shoppers typically splash out to make Christmas a memorable time for themselves and those close to them, but retailers can’t yet pop the Champagne corks to celebrate a return to what used to be called normality.