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Alcohol sales soar as Irish shoppers flock north

Alcohol sales rocketed by more than 25% in Northern Ireland last year as consumers travelled across the border for bargains.

In contrast, off-licence sales were down by 16% in the Republic in 2008, new figures from price trackers Nielsen Ni Scantrack Data revealed yesterday.

The figures have prompted the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) to call on the Irish government to lower VAT and excise.

The organisation said it estimates that additional sales of about 800,000 litres of spirits and 10 million litres of beer were made to shoppers from the Republic in Northern Ireland last year. Fears are now growing that the trend could see the loss of thousands of jobs in the Republic’s drinks industry.

The exodus across the border prompted Tanaiste Mary Coughlan to insist she would impose price controls on retailers who continue to charge high prices in the Republic.

The National Consumer Agency recently revealed there was an average mark-up of 51% on non-food items relative to the UK sterling price.

A TNS/MRBI survey also found that one in every eight households had shopped for groceries in Northern Ireland in the last 12 weeks of 2008.

ABFI chair Rosemary Garth last night said the figures demonstrated the extent of the cross-border shopping phenomena.

“We estimate that 6% of the off-licence trade in the South has gone directly to the North.

“For producers and retailers in the South this is extremely worrying. Loss of trade on this scale will lead to further redundancies and closures.

“The Irish government must begin to consider a range of measures to address this — including a cut in VAT and excise,” added Ms Garth.

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