The abolition of the groceries order in the Irish Republic, which had been blamed for its high prices, is not enough to stop customers straying over the border for deals on their grocery shopping.
A major Christmas shopping exodus is currently under way to Northern Ireland, where prices are much cheaper, even allowing for the euro exchange rate difference.
In Newry, just over the border, Sainsbury has reported that travellers from the Republic, stocking up for the festive season, now account for up to 60% of business. The story is the same in Derry and as far north as Lisburn.
Drink and confectionery are major attractions as Christmas approaches, with a bottle of Smirnoff vodka costing the equivalent of €10 less in Sainsbury’s in Newry compared with at Tesco in Dublin.
Similar prices differences are found on Jameson whiskey and Baileys. However, the price difference extends to a wide range of items, with Tescos in Northern Ireland charging significantly less than its outlets in the Republic, across products including McVitie’s Rich Tea, Hob Nobs, Bisto turkey granules and own label organic jam, which can be half the price.
Tesco blamed “the high cost of doing business in the Republic” for the differences.
But Tina Leonard, manager of the European Consumer Centre in Dublin, said it was difficult to understand why the price percentages were so high, and added: “The reality is that consumers in the Republic are now voting with their feet.”
Goodbody, the Dublin-based stockbroker, predicts that as a result of the removal of the groceries order and the ban on below-cost selling, family food bills will fall by just three to four percent, and not by the nine percent that many proponents of abolition had suggested.
This is likely to mean that, despite predictions of a pre-Christmas price war, the long-standing tradition of heading across the border for a cheap deal is set to continue.