Friday 23 February 2018

Border-hopping shoppers better off in the South

Fuel and cigarettes noticeably cheaper in the Republic but drinkers need to choose carefully


DRINK, cigarettes and motor fuel were the trinity that fuelled Ireland's cross-border shopping trade.

Three years ago, at the height of the border exodus, shoppers from the South spent tens of millions in Northern Ireland, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

But that cycle has now nearly reversed, with tobacco, petrol and car diesel cheaper in the Republic than north of the Border. Many items of alcohol are also better value in the Republic -- for the first time in years.

The results of a new price-comparison survey, carried out by the Revenue Commissioners, suggests that this Christmas northern shoppers may be heading south for bargains in certain items of drink and all cigarettes. They may also fill up on cheaper petrol and diesel.

The euro exchange rate on the survey date of September 25 was £0.7975 and the prices for drink were based on individual items that were not part of multiple purchases or special offers. All the price comparisons have been converted to euro.

It showed that a half-litre can of stout in the South is €1.99, compared with €2.07 in Northern Ireland off-licences -- an 8c difference in the Republic's favour.

Interestingly, as well as the impact of the euro/sterling exchange rate, a key factor in the price differences is the levels of tax and duty here, compared with Northern Ireland.

The tax on the can of stout in Newry is 86c, compared with 70c in Dublin.

Despite that tax advantage, lager is still cheaper in the North. A 500ml can of lager is €1.88 in Dublin, but just €1.55 in Newry. Bottles are also 24c cheaper.

It's a mixed result for spirits. A bottle of whiskey is priced identically on both sides of the Border at €23.32, but vodka is cheaper in the North by €2.93 a bottle, at €15.87.

Wine is similarly confusing. A bottle of Chardonnay bought in Dublin for €8.25 is 98c cheaper than an outlet in Co Down. But identical bottles of Sauvignon Blanc show a price differential in the North's favour, where it is 27c cheaper per bottle at €6.91.

The real savings for those who shop in the Republic are in cigarettes and in fuel.

Two different brands of cigarettes were compared, which were both priced at €9.20 per pack of 20 in Dublin. In the North, they were €9.74 and €9.81. Roll-your-own tobacco, at €9.55 in the Republic for a 25g pack, is €1.05 cheaper than in northern shops.

A litre of unleaded petrol is €1.70 in the South and €1.79 in the North. Drivers who fill up on diesel at €1.60 per litre on this side of the Border will be saving 22c per litre.

But keeping oil-fired heating tanks full with kerosene is still much cheaper in the North. The survey found that 1,000 litres of kerosene is now €938 in the South, compared with €776 in the North -- a difference of €162.

Household diesel is marginally cheaper in the South -- €962 per 1,000 litres in the South, compared with €967.50 in the North -- a difference of €5.50 on a standard fill.

Sunday Independent

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