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Large retailers threaten traders

Large retailers threaten traders

Anton McNulty

PUBLICANS and independent off-licence holders have accused the large retail sectors of forcing them out of business by lowering their prices to levels where they are unable to compete.
The provisional excise licences figures for 2006 back up their argument, with 441 pub licences renewed in 2006 compared to 532 for the previous years. This may not be a surprise to many but what will be a shock is the large decrease in off-licences for 2006, down 60 on the 2005 figure of 183 off-licences.
For many people it was predicted that the reduction in traditional pub culture would benefit the off-licences but the independent off-licence holders are feeling the pinch as much as the publicans.
One well known off-licencee from Ballina told The Mayo News he was not surprised by the figures and said many independent off-licencees were contemplating closing their doors. He claimed that buying alcohol was now part of the weekly shopping list and there was no need for many people to go to an independent off-licence at the weekend.
“The increase in sales in wines that you read about – most would be going to the large multiple stores like Tesco and Dunnes. There would not be an increase in the independent off-licensees. The reps who come to me would notice this as well because they do not see an increase because the bigger guys would be buying directly from the producers. For the last two years we have not see an increase at all. The independent off-licence trade is static and there is no growth.
“All the spirits advertised in the large multiples over the Christmas would be well below our cost price. One large store was selling a bottle of Jameson for €21.75, while the cost price is €24.44 and to make a profit I have to sell it for €26.50. Another sold its beer 25 per cent below what we bought it for for two weeks before Christmas. That is the reality of below cost selling. We just cannot compete,” he said.
Marty O’Hora, chairman of the VFI in Mayo, also said the trend was clearly hitting publicans hard.
“It’s a totally unfair system where the large supermarkets can sell alcohol at hugely reduced prices and the local publican cannot even have a ‘happy hour’ anymore to try and entice customers to leave their homes.”
The Mayo VFI held their AGM in the TF Royal Hotel last week and Mr O’Hora stated a number of important issues were discussed in an open and frank manner.
“We had a sizeable attendance at the meeting and many concerns in relation to the future of the trade in the west of Ireland were discussed at length.”