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‘Booze at the border’: New alcohol pricing presents opportunity for Northern supermarkets

The Republic’s strict new alcohol pricing laws have presented the North’s supermarkets with an opportunity they can’t resist. One Northern Irish Supermarket, Hughes Foodhall, Camlough in County Armagh, has urged shoppers to ‘shop North and save big’ after a hike in alcohol prices which last week saw the price of alcohol as much as double in some supermarkets south of the border.

On Tuesday, the Government’s controversial minimum unit alcohol pricing system came into effect, putting an end to promotional deals and cheap drinks with some slabs of beer doubling in price. The government say the increase is an effort to reduce alcohol-related illness and death. The mandatory price hikes mean that all alcohol will now have a minimum price based on the number of grams of alcohol, with one gram costing at least €0.10.

The shift will mostly affect alcohol sold in retail outlets; it shouldn’t affect pubs etc because these already charge over €0.10 per unit.

The legislation, which has been met with significant opposition, was introduced in May last year and aims to reduce consumption by heavy drinkers by making strong alcohol less affordable. The Irish Independent reported last week that the price of alcohol had already rocketed, with 24 cans of Budweiser at Supervalu going up in price from €18 euro to €40.71, an increase of €22.71. The Government believes this is a positive step because it will reduce alcohol-related harm.

One Northern Irish supermarket has caught the attention of shoppers, after it encouraged southerners to visit them to purchase their alcohol at significantly cheaper prices following the implementation of the minimum pricing for alcohol.

Hughes Foodhall clearly felt is was an unmissable opportunity to launch a promotional drive.

Their opportunistic new marketing campaign, dubbed ‘Booze at the Border’ told people to “head for the border, head for Hughes!” The foodhall and supermarket, 5 km west of Newry, in Co Armagh, has showcased all of their drastically cheaper prices in comparison to the rocketing new rates in the Republic, in a bid to entice Dublin customers to make the 50-minute drive to their store.

In a Facebook post, they wrote: “New minimum alcohol pricing in the south means prices have soared,” adding “it’s always worth a trip north.”

“Check out our pricing to see how you can save big! Head for the border, head for Hughes!”

Credit: Reddit

Their advertising has sparked interest since being posted across Reddit and Twitter, with people organising trips up North to avoid the latest sharp price increase in booze.

Plans to buy alcohol in the North will no doubt be made, after stores including Supervalu and Aldi altered the price of drink immediately after the law came into effect. The law change introduced on Tuesday means that Vodka and gin will cost a minimum of €20.70 and whiskey will increase to at least €22. The most affordable can of beer is now €1.70 and the cheapest bottle of wine sits at €7.40.

In a Sunday World report, one off-license worker told the paper that he and others in the industry had already witnessed what he believed was an influx of southerners to northern border towns and cities to collect drink ahead of the weekend.

“Several of my pals who are originally from Belfast, but who are based in Dublin for their jobs, told me they’d be ‘stocking up the boot’ before they head down south again.”

The paper also reported: “Another source with his ear to the ground in the criminal underworld around the border in the Derry area said he was aware southern small-time drug dealers, who sell ‘party packs’ to drug users before and during each weekend, were considering hopping over the border to buy bottles of cheap spirits before heading back south to “make an extra few quid” when making house calls.”

On social media, users expressed willingness to make the trip up North, while voicing discontent with the new rules.

“I’ve always said traveling up to the North couldn’t be worth it and probably still isn’t for the most part.

“But I could definitely see myself heading up for the likes of Xmas/New Years/special occasions and filling the van up to the gills,” one Twitter user said.

One photo of a 24-can box of Budweiser in a Southern supermarket did the rounds online, with people incredulous at its €42.41 price tag, which was described online as ‘a joke’.

Credit: Reddit


“Congratulations to Fianna Fail, Fianna Gael and the Green Party at restarting cross-border drink buying runs. Northern Ireland shops are very grateful,” one meme created with the widely circulated picture read.

Other memes and posts poked fun at the situation, and said that areas near the border such as Newry would be celebrating the news in the South as a big opportunity for a boom in business.

Credit: Reddit


A report in Newry.ie said that it ‘remains to be seen’ whether minimum price rules for alcohol sold in Southern supermarkets and off licenses will see a resurgence of cross border shopping in Newry or reignited interest in some additional duty free. However, the fact that 500ml of beer in Newry can be bought for around £24 while the same product across the border would cost a minimum of £33, no doubt presents the prospect of a tempting bargain for punters.

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