Ahern: euro surge has helped prices fall

British supermarket chain Asda has begun home delivery service trials of groceries in the Republic of Ireland. The trial is understood to involve a small number of customers and extends at least as far as Dublin, sources said.

Asda.ie now directs visitors to the UK home shopping site although the service remains unavailable to the general public at this stage. Visitors to Asda.ie were previously directed to parent group Wal-Mart's own site.

Asda did not reply to a question asking when the supermarket chain intends to make the service available in the Republic and whether it would be nationwide. "Unfortunately we don't deliver to ROI at all, our website actually won't allow deliveries to ROI addresses," a spokeswoman for Asda said last week. Last year the retailer said that "offering home shopping to Irish customers is something we would love to be able to do" but there was issues with currency conversion on the website.

According to the latest research from TNS Worldpanel, Asda and Sainsbury's had a 3% share of the Republic's grocery market for the last quarter of 2009, up from 2.2% the previous year. The average spend on grocery goods per trip by shoppers from the Republic to the two British multiples was more than €60.

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has predicted the trend will continue.

Speaking to the Sunday Tribune, Ahern who is an adviser to Gerard O'Hare, the landlord-owner of a big slice of Newry, said the expansion plans in the Co Down town will probably continue to attract shoppers from the Republic in their thousands.

Ahern said falling prices in southern stores had so far reflected some of the huge buying power big retailers had gained from the euro's surge against sterling. But he questioned whether prices in the south had fallen fast enough.

"The currency has helped bring prices down," Ahern said.

Referring to O'Hare's plans to expand his shopping development, Ahern said that Newry was going to be a "substantial development" for years to come.

Ahern, a member of the advisory board of Parkergreen International, advises O'Hare on his property interests in continental Europe and the US.