Cross-border fears ease as grocery sales in the Republic soar

A consumer trends expert has played down fears of the new year ushering in a pronounced renewal of shoppers going to the North for their weekly groceries and other goods.

A new survey — from credit risk analyst Vision-net.ie — has suggested “almost a quarter of Irish shoppers plan to travel across the border to avail of weaker sterling” in the coming weeks. 

However, David Berry, director of leading consumer insights agency Kantar Worldpanel, which measures supermarket performance levels, said that figure seems surprising.

He said that while the weakening of sterling against the euro in the aftermath of June’s Brexit vote resulted in some movement in shoppers to the North, no real trend took hold and any loss has been redressed as sterling has recovered.

He added that if supermarkets in the Republic continue to offer incentives to shop, consumers will continue to do so here and not move North for their shopping; although he added it remains “a bit of a concern” given exchange rate volatility.

Mr Berry’s general point was supported by the results, yesterday, of Kantar’s latest Irish grocery market share figures — for the 12 weeks to December 4 — showing that Dunnes and SuperValu now control a combined 45% share of the market.

The previous quarterly update — published in November — showed that Dunnes had overtaken SuperValu to take top spot, but both now have a 22.5% share of the market.

All major players saw their over-the-counter sales rise in the latest cycle (including struggling Tesco, with a 1.2% rise), but Dunnes enjoyed the biggest jump in till sales, at 4.8%. Dunnes’ long-standing ‘shop and save’ voucher system continues to attract shoppers and Mr Berry said the latest market share figures are “a real testament to just how competitive this marketplace is”.

Dunnes is also the only major grocer to deliver stronger growth for brands than for own label goods.

The German discounters also had a strong quarter and currently each hold an 11.1% share of the Republic’s grocery market. Aldi saw its over-the-counter sales jump by 6.1% in the latest cycle, while till sales at Lidl were up by 4.3%.

Tesco’s recovery, meanwhile, has been on the back of 10,000 additional households choosing to shop with the retailer this year.

“In the past quarter we’ve seen evidence of Tesco’s turnaround, with sales showing positive growth for the first time since March this year,” Mr. Berry said.

Overall, the latest review period saw Irish-based grocers post a combined 3.7% sales growth.

However, Vision-net claims that shoppers remain open to broadening their horizons and 45% of the shoppers planning an excursion to the North will be doing so for the first time.

“Irish consumers are cognisant of the impact of Brexit and a weakened sterling and plan to avail of the knock-on benefits this Christmas,” said managing director Christine Cullen.

“Generally, though, shock events like the referendum decision and the election of Donald Trump seem not to have had a huge effect on Irish attitudes to spending and saving.

Neither has yet to really ‘happen’, however, so it could be years before we can measure their true impact. Christmas 2017 could be a different matter, entirely,” she added.


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