Good goods come in low-profile baskets
Moore Street, home to fruit and veg stalls, supermarkets and discount stores. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
The big discounters don't have it all their own way: some of the best value is to be had in ethnic and discount shops, markets and local stores, writes PETER MCGUIRE
The area stretching from Dublin’s Capel Street through Henry Street and on to Moore Street is an almost perfect microcosm of Ireland’s grocery sector. Within a few hundred metres, shoppers can choose between Tesco and Dunnes, Lidl and Aldi, Iceland, several greengrocers and fruit and vegetable stalls,butchers shops, ethnic food shops, bakeries and euro value or “pound” shops. It’s a good spot to highlight price differences.
There’s has always been some snobbery surrounding shops. This was evident when Aldi and Lidl came to town a decade ago. People looked down their noses at the places, at least until 2008, when recession removed the sting of shame from the German discounters.
Euro shops, on the other hand, have retained a slightly grotty reputation but this is changing. And fast. The UK chains Dealz and Euro50 Stores have been popping up all over the country and they no longer sell only tat. Their shelves are stocked with basic groceries and household products, mostly consisting of recognisable brands. Dealz sells almost all its produce for €1.49 or in €1.49 deals – just one cent shy of the Euro50 Stores’ main price point.
There are some surprises. Dorset cereals are just €1.49 in Dealz, less than half the price of Tesco, while Fairy Liquid was 99 cent. Shampoos, including Garnier Fructis and Simple are just €1.50 in the Euro50 Stores. Indeed, brand-name shampoos and shower gels are excellent value in euro shops, although in some of them, the instructions might be in another language. Heinz ketchup ranged from 33 cent per 100g in Iceland and the Euro50 Store to 38 cent per 100g in the Asian Food Market, and 52 cent per 100g in Lidl.
It is 8am on a Thursday at Dublin’s fruit and vegetable market in Smithfield. The place is deathly quiet. Pat Martin of KM Fruit and Vegetable Importers, says traditional fruit and vegetable sellers, from street traders and stall holders to greengrocers, are “on our knees. It’s really difficult to compete with the supermarkets because they can afford to sell fruit and vegetables below cost”.
This has been a persistent cause of concern for greengrocers since the abolition of the Groceries Order in 2005, which ushered in an era of below-cost selling. Aldi’s Super 6 offer sees a selection of six fruit and vegetable items for between 39 cent and 79 cent; before Christmas it was selling large pineapples for 15 cent.
Martin’s sentiment is echoed on Moore Street, where street trader Steve O’Brien estimates that the number of stalls has plummeted from around 40 to just 14 in 10 years. But the traders, as well as individual greengrocers, can be reasonably competitive. O’Brien was selling carrots for €1 per kg; Lidl had them for 99c per kg, and the Asian Food Co on Mary Street priced them at €1.50 per kg.