Monday, November 16, 1998 Published at 08:45 GMT
Bargains aim to stem cross-channel sprees
UK alcohol taxes keep prices generally high
Supermarkets in the United Kingdom are cutting prices to try to win back shoppers who head to across the English Channel to stock up for Christmas.
Sainsbury's has begun by cutting the prices of certain beers and wines. Prices are still more expensive than in France, but by narrowing the margin, the supermarket hopes customers will no longer find it worthwhile to make the trip to the continent.
"We are trying to show that people do not have to go to France to stock up for Christmas," said a Sainsbury's spokesman. "Once they have paid for petrol, the ferry and everything else, they may as well stay here."
Other supermarket chains are likely to follow Sainsbury's lead. Asda and Morrisons are already reported to be offering promotions on particular brands of beer, with Asda also offering Dom Perignon champagne at a substantial discount.
Higher taxes on alcohol keep British drink prices consistently higher than in many other European countries, including nearby France and Belgium.
As much as 17% of beer drunk in British homes is bought on cross-channel shopping trips, according to retail industry estimates.
Cars to lure custom
Rival supermarket chain Tesco is meanwhile using the prospect of winning a car to boost its Christmas sales.
Holders of Tesco Clubcards will be given registration numbers, and if they receive a sales receipt with a matching number, they stand to win one of 200 Skoda Octavia cars.
But Tesco spokesman Andrew Coker dismissed as "wild speculation" press reports that Tesco was planning to start selling cars at discounts of as much as 30%.
He said Tesco was always considering new markets - including car sales - which it might move into, and the company would "never say never" to possible new areas of business.
But he stated that "there are no current plans to go into the car market".