German discount chains Lidl and Aldi have increased their combined share of the Irish market to 6.7%, their highest figure since they moved into the Republic seven years ago.

According to the latest TNS Worldpanel data, Lidl has built a 4.2% share of the €7bn grocery sector, with Aldi gaining 2.5%. A year ago, a TNS report put their combined share at 5.4%.

Much of the growth is attributed to new store openings, frequently in the face of vigorous opposition.

Lidl, starting from scratch, has built a network of 65 Irish outlets, with four new openings in recent weeks. Aldi has 37 stores and a dozen or so more at the planning or building stage. But despite the latest improvement, rivals claim the discounters' Irish performance has been disappointing when compared with success elsewhere.

In France, for example, they have a built a combined share of 15%, having entered in 1998. "Lidl and Aldi attract very little loyalty from Irish consumers," said one SuperValu retailer. "People will go there for a bargain or two, but will go elsewhere for their weekly shop. They don't have as many products as other stores, nor do they offer the same service."

The TNS figures support that view. Superquinn, with 21 stores holds an 8% share. Market leader is Tesco, with 26% share. Dunnes has 22.8% and SuperValu 19.8%.