Supermarket sweep: a shopping challenge
Last week we held a mirror in front of the State’s seven main supermarkets to see which was the fairest of them all
Finding a staff member to help us in this very small store is challenging. We can see one in the storeroom but he is breaking boxes with a venomous energy so we don’t disturb him and instead we spend five minutes morosely walking the aisles looking for help.
Eventually, we track someone down and when we ask about the soy sauce they point to a pillar and say: “It’s behind there somewhere.”Brilliant. This particularly grumpy Lidl employee makes the assistant in Aldi seem like an angel of mercy.
We can’t face the long queue so abandon our shopping and flee. We’ll give Lidl the benefit of the doubt and assume the conversation with the check-out person would have sparkled like a thousand shimmering stars.
A price of ¤35.69 is higher than you might expect, but as with Aldi, the high-end steak option is skewing the numbers. If we take away the price of the steak, our basket of nine items falls to ¤15.26 which would make it the third cheapest of the stores last week and just beaten for the top spot by its main rival Aldi and Dunnes.
Verdict: Pretty cheap and pretty grim
Star rating: ***
The oldest of the big seven, Dunnes has been through a lot in the last half century and it is still standing and growing strongly according to the latest research on grocery market share, which was published last week. It has big stores and small stores but the one we pick is middling in many ways.
It has a disappointing array of fruit and vegetables and the choice of fresh meat and fish isn’t great. Having said that, you could quite easily do a weekly shop here every week and not feel like you were going without.
It has a lot of mid-range own-brand products, which line out alongside all the well-established brands, and if you fancy buying some clothes or crockery once your grocery shopping is done, all its other departments are but a slow-moving escalator away.
There are maybe eight staff members on the shop floor and the one we approach looking for help with our soy sauce hunt is robotic in her charms. “Aisle eight. Top shelf,” she says gesturing towards what we guess is eight. She is absolutely right, and while she lost points for brusqueness she gained some for her accuracy.
There are a lot of tills open and they move quickly – a depressing number of people ahead of us are buying cheap booze. We say “nice day” again, to which we get the response “Is it? I don’t know. I haven’t seen the outside since I came in.” The conversation ends there. We’d like to comment on the quality of the 22 cent bags in Dunnes Stores but we can’t because they didn’t have any.
While a two-litre container of Dunnes own-brand milk sells for ¤1.49 – the same price as everywhere else – the shop also sells another brand of milk we didn’t recognise for just ¤1.19. This is the cheapest milk we find anywhere. The final tally, with one kilo of sirloin steak, is ¤30.30. Without the most expensive item, the price of the basket is ¤14.99, which leaves Dunnes in second place in the price stakes.
Verdict: Cheap and charmless
Star rating: ***
Before M&S (and the likes of Fallon & Byrne and Morton’s in Dublin and Galway) came along, Superquinn was the place to go for great customer service and vaguely exotic food. Times have changed however and Superquinn has struggled to retain its cachet. Having said that, we still reckon a Superquinn shopping experience is a cut above most of the competition, not least because David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust is playing over the speakers when we call in.
The shop floor is not overrun with staff but those that are there seem are knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful. When we ask a member of staff holding a large sign and standing on a ladder for our soy sauce we are taken to the spot without delay.
The shop is bright and spacious and has a good mix of own-brand and branded products as well as some fancy wooden tubs of olive oil and fresh pesto. There is also a lot of Irish stock on the shelves and a range of olive oils, breads and fruits that some of its rivals would do well to copy.
Superquinn loses out in other ways, however. It is not nationwide and it falls down on price, too. When the steak is included, the cost of our 10 items comes to ¤35.95, and when it is taken off, the price falls to ¤22.21 or up there with the most expensive of the shops visited.
Verdict: Old school priciness
Star rating: ***