Top stories in the papers this week 6 – 13 August 2010

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14% fall in grocery prices can't hide lack of competition; Wal-Mart age looms as retail size cap is reviewed; Tesco charges up to 4% more at Express outlets



12 August 2010

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1. 14% fall in grocery prices can’t hide lack of competition

The latest National Consumer Agency (NCA) report showing the price of branded groceries has fallen by around 14% in the last 18 months in major Irish retailers, is not the good news as it might at first appear, writes Conor Pope in the Irish Times. While the supermarket price war drove prices down significantly in the early part of last year, according to the NCA, they have been virtually static since – leading to accusations of price matching .

However, Pope argues such claims are hard to prove, considering supermarkets have long guarded their Irish margins “like the Vatican once guarded the Third Secret of Fatima.” He adds supermarkets can also easily manipulate price surveys by lowering certain prices and hiking others up, and accurate price-comparisons will therefore only be possible when all big retailers list prices “in an easily accessible digital database.”

2. Wal-Mart age looms as retail size cap is reviewed

Following the NCA’s calls this week for Retail Planning Guidelines to be broadened, the Irish Independent reports the Government will consider lifting the cap on the size of retail units. The paper states almost 200 submissions have now been made to a review of the Retail Planning Guidelines, which was ordered by Planning Minister Ciaran Cuffe. New rules are expected to be put out for public consultation before the end of the year. Previously, the Competition Authority said the current limits could prevent competition by imposing restrictions on the size of new outlets.

3. Tesco charges up to 4% more at Express outlets

Prices at Tesco Express stores are 3.6% higher than at full-sized Tesco supermarkets, the new NCA survey has found. The Irish Independent reveals that the difference found on a basket of 76 products sold in both types of Tesco outlet, was actually far greater than the price difference between Tesco and any of its main competitors, Dunnes, Superquinn and SuperValu. However, Tesco Ireland said its Tesco Express prices were significantly lower than in competing convenience stores.  The supermarket claimed higher overhead costs for town or city centre stores (mainly rents and rates) accounted for the mark-up.

4. IFA wants NCA disbanded

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has called for the NCA to be disbanded. The Irish Examiner reports that the farmers lobby group has objected to the government-appointed consumer watchdog’s calls for planning regulations to be lifted – allowing even larger retailers to set up in Ireland. Dermot Jewell, chief executive of the Consumers Association of Ireland, called for the setting up of a retail ombudsman who would be given statutory powers to investigate big supermarket businesses.

5. Permission for Aldi store in Portmarnock overturned

Aldi has been refused permission by An Bord Pleanála to build a branch on the Portmarnock coast, opposite one of Dublin’s most popular beaches.  The Irish Times reports that last March, Fingal County Council gave approval for the supermarket in the grounds of the White Sands Hotel opposite the Portmarnock Martello tower and beach, despite having received more than 50 objections to the application.  However, An Bord Pleanála has now overturned the council’s decision; stating the construction of the supermarket would have been contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.


Price is right for canny retailers as consumers still left in dark (Irish Times)
– Paul Cullen on how the concept of ‘shopping around’ has become defunct with shoppers who spend almost €300 on branded goods in Tesco, Dunnes or Superquinn saving no more than €1 by moving from one to another.

Greencore reports 7% sales rise (Irish Times)

Banks appoint three new directors to Arnotts board (Irish Times)

Docklands plan for Cork could create 5,000 jobs  (Irish Times)

Smart Consumer: How you can be a winner in the great supermarket sweepstakes (Irish Independent)

Wheat prices’ spike unlikely to hit consumers in the pocket  (Irish Independent)

Sweet smell of small successes giving commuter town a boost (Irish Independent)

‘Newry effect’ has slowed to just a trickle, says cross-border group (Irish Independent)

Lidl to mark its 10 years in the Irish market with competitions nationwide  (Irish Independent)

Cavan retailers winning war as shoppers choose local (Anglo Celt)

Drivers told not to panic as fuel price hikes loom (Belfast Telegraph)

British supermarkets react angrily to anti-bullying code (Sunday Tribune)

Retailers hit back at National Consumer Agency (Irish Examiner)
– Retail Ireland  claims the 14% grocery price drop clearly shows Irish shoppers are getting value for money.  The group’s director, Turloch Denihan says the NCA’s criticism of Irish supermarkets “defies logic,  and smacks of an agency struggling to justify its own existence."



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