New alcohol price rule risks surge in cross-border shopping - Retail Ireland

April 28, 2021

Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the retail sector, today warned that the introduction of minimum unit price (MUP) rules for alcohol, without alignment with Northern Ireland, is likely to prompt a surge in cross-border shopping leading to a major loss of trade to businesses in the Republic. The group said it was deeply concerned that the Government was now considering going back on a commitment to wait until similar rules were introduced in Northern Ireland before progressing with MUP here. The matter will be discussed at a Cabinet meeting next Tuesday 4 May.

Retail Ireland Director Arnold Dillon said: “At a time when we desperately need a strong retail recovery, the Government is contemplating introducing rules that will drive significant volumes of trade north of the border. This would be a major blow to businesses here and will result in a significant loss of tax revenue to the state.”

An Ibec economic report showed that a unilateral MUP move would increase the existing price differential on alcohol between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland from 27% to 38%. It estimated that it would result in a direct €94 million loss to the Irish Exchequer due to sales migrating across the border. Such a move could also embed a culture of cross-border shopping that would have far-reaching consequence for the entire retail sector and local economies. 

“If consumers travel to Northern Ireland to shop, they will inevitably spend money in a wide range of retail and hospitality outlets, not just in grocery and off-trade. This will be at the expense of struggling businesses here. While retailers in border regions will be hit hardest, we have seen in the past that consumers will travel long distances to save money. In the absence of alignment with Northern Ireland, retail businesses in significant swathes of the country could easily find themselves losing out.

“While the retail sector understands and appreciates the public health rationale for MUP, it is vital that the measure is done in coordination with Northern Ireland,” concluded Mr Dillon.