Warning as supermarket prices

Supermarkets must cut costs if they want to prevent risking a customer boycott over soaring recession-era price hikes.

The warning came as figures released by the Consumers Association of Ireland show that, despite families struggling to cope with the downturn, major supermarkets are pushing prices higher than even boom-time rates.

According to the independent watchdog, 16 of Ireland’s 19 most popular grocery goods have seen price rises of between 5.5% and 38%, since Jun 2011.

The increases — based on costs at Dunnes Stores, Superquinn, Tesco and SuperValu — come despite the fact inflation rose by just 1.7% during the same period.

Coupled with the impact of the recession on customers, major supermarkets have been urged to stop sacrificing consumers for their own benefit — or face the prospect of mass walk-outs.

According to the CAI figures:

* Average grocery costs have risen by 12% since Jun 2011;

* In all, the 19 products examined rose in weekly cost from €36.45c to €41.06c. If the increases were in line with inflation, the rise would have been to €37.06c;

* On average, this means weekly grocery over-pricing is costing families €800 every year;

* Among the foods examined were essentials such as bread, milk, butter, cereals and sugar;

* Almost all products cost more than at the height of the Celtic Tiger in 2007;

* Just three products did not see prices rise.

The CAI has repeatedly called for changes to what it believes is an unofficial agreement between major stores to keep prices high.

Low-price alternatives such as Aldi and Lidl were not counted as no standard like-for-like comparison of products was available.

CAI chief executive Dermot Jewell said supermarkets need to realise customers’ wallets cannot continue to be drained.

“Household budgets cannot, in any way, benefit from pricing patterns that are totally devoid of competition on products that are household staples.

“We’re not looking for Government to do anything because the numerous times we’ve asked before have gone nowhere, but we are saying one of the supermarkets should break from the pack and cut its prices.”

* Consumers’ Association of Ireland: www.thecai.ie or call 01-497-8600

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