French wine sales sour as flag orders rise - East Valley Tribune: Business

French wine sales sour as flag orders rise

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Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2003 10:13 pm | Updated: 1:51 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Call it red and white versus red, white and blue. A backlash against France has cut into French wine sales in a few East Valley stores as the United States heads to war against Iraq.

Meanwhile, businesses are waiting for a surge in patriotism to fuel a rise in American flag sales. So far, American flags sales are steady, but haven't taken off like they did after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when flags were on back order. Retailers are increasing orders slightly, but said they aren't sure how much sales will rise.

Jan Dominguez, co-owner of Air-a-Zona Flag Co. in Mesa, said the store was busy most of Tuesday with walk-in requests and calls for the American flag. "It has been busier than I had expected today," Dominguez said. "We will increase our orders, there's no question about that. The manufacturers are already asking what we think we'll need."

"I would anticipate something similar to Desert Storm's reaction," she said. "Sept. 11 was such a sudden and horrible, horrific thing. People wanted them immediately."

Dominguez said she anticipates sales to be more gradual than they were after the terrorist attacks. "There's a lot of people that are not in support of this," she said. "With Sept. 11, there wasn't a soul that wasn't hurt (by the attacks)."

Michaele Thierbach, saleswoman at Arizona Decorating in Mesa, said she's considering ordering more flags so she's ready. "You don't know if everybody has one yet or not," she said. The company, at 531 W. Main St., quadrupled its sales after Sept. 11, 2001. While American support seems to be on the rise, demand for French wine seems to be declining in some Valley wine stores.

France has attracted the ire of many Americans because that nation's stance at the United Nations against any possible U.S.-led military action against Iraq.

"There are customers who are boycotting French wines," said Brian Mahoney, owner of House Wines and Cheese in Scottsdale. "I have some really good regulars who spend a lot of money in here who won't buy French wine who usually do buy French. One guy said not until the war's over; one guy said never again."

He said he hasn't changed his buying decisions for the store yet, but "if it continues, yeah, I'm going to replace Beaujolais with another pinot noir."

Other wine retailers said they've noticed a cut, too, although French and other imported wines aren't big business in most Valley wine stores. Tom Fordyce, co-owner of My Wine Cellar in Ahwatukee Foothills, said French wines make up less than 10 percent of his sales.

Still, in the past, "People would come in and at least browse the French section, but now it looks like they're not going in that direction," said Kathleen Fordyce, co-owner of My Wine Cellar. She said she hasn't placed new orders for French wine. "I think right now people are listening to what everyone else is saying and staying with domestic (wines)," she said.

Ed Sullivan, cellar master at AJ's Fine Foods in Scottsdale, said he's heard several customers say they won't buy French wine. "I've had reduced sales," he said. "There's definitely an impact. I've noticed I'm selling less French wines, so I'll probably buy less."

Sandy Wasserman, sales consultant for Quail Distributing in Phoenix, said there are exceptions.

"With the 2000 vintage of Bordeaux, I've seen sales of French wines increase," he said. "Because the 2000 vintage is one of the best vintages ever, people are putting their politics aside."

Wine collector Chris Eckert of Tempe said she bought some 2000 Bordeaux a couple months back, but won't buy any more. After eyeing some boxes of it at Cost Plus, she said, "I said, 'Damn, I'm not going to do this,' and walked away and bought eight napkins on sale and napkin rings."

And Jock Wulffson, owner of Village Wine Cellar in Scottsdale, said the affect on his store has been minimal.

"We've had a few people saying they're not buying French wine, but I'd say it hasn't been any kind of mass uprising," he said. "Even the ones who aren't particularly enamored of France at the moment said if the wine's good, they're still going to buy it."

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