Food will always cost more in Jersey, says retail boss

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In a letter in today’s JEP, SandpiperCI chief executive Tony O’Neill sets out seven ‘facts’ which he says explain why food costs more in the Island than it does in the UK.

He adds that he is prepared to ‘stick his head above the parapet’ to set the record straight.

Consumers have long used the letters pages of the JEP to raise the issue of food prices, often comparing the cost of the same products in different outlets of the same shops in Jersey and England.

Recently, correspondence has focused on prices in Morrisons stores, which have recently been opened on the sites of former Foodhalls, including in St Ouen, St Aubin and Five Oaks.

The newspaper heard from readers who believe that they are paying far too much, and from those who say that the new chain offers improved choice and greater value for money.

One of the recent letters, which prompted Mr O’Neill’s response published on page 12 of today’s paper, complained that ‘the shop [at Five Oaks] is extremely poorly stocked and very over priced’, the writer adding that she now felt ‘totally ripped off’. Another said: ‘I find the prices here are way above the English prices.’ The letter added that none of the supermarket brands in Jersey were consistently good value, arguing that people had to ‘shop around’.

In contrast, a third reader wrote: ‘We in St Aubin have just had our Foodhall changed over to Morrisons and it is absolutely brilliant. Amazingly, there is an increased range, and almost all their prices are way less.’

Mr O’Neill said: ‘Our introduction of the Morrisons brand – and in particular the introduction of Morrisons’ cheaper own-label products – has got people talking about food prices. Whilst it is pleasing to note the very positive feedback and sales growth we are experiencing locally, it is probably worth putting food pricing in the Channel Islands into some context.

‘I realise that this is probably a ‘‘no win’’ argument to some people, particularly as we all read national newspapers and are reminded on an almost daily basis that cheaper food is available in the UK.

‘However, I am prepared to put my head above the parapet, as I believe it is important that Island consumers understand how we arrive at our selling prices.’

In his letter, Mr O’Neill lists seven reasons – the facts – why food is more expensive in Jersey.

He says that:

*UK food is exempt from VAT.

*Transports costs are ‘horrendously high’.

*Property costs are very high.

*Labour costs are akin to London’s.

*Jersey cannot benefit as much as major UK retailers from economies of scale.

*The new retail tax has pushed up prices.

*Store fit-out costs are 25 per cent more than in the UK

He adds: ‘…whilst I suspect my restatement of the facts will fall on deaf ears to some readers, the simple maths of the above factors clearly demonstrates that food prices can never be as low here as in the UK.’

On its website, Sandpiper states: ‘We’re delighted to be bringing Morrisons quality and value to local customers. With competitive, permanently low prices, we’re committed to helping our customers save money every day.

‘Morrisons offer freshness, service and value across almost 500 stores in the UK and now their food and grocery products will be available to Channel Islands’ residents, across 26 Morrisons Daily stores based in Jersey and Guernsey.’

Food- and drink-outlet brands operated in the Island by Sandpiper include Costa, Marks & Spencer, Iceland, Hotel Chocolat, Wine Warehouse, Burger King and The Cornish Bakery. Also in its portfolio are Crew Clothing, Moss Bros, George and Jack Wills.

Sandpiper has said that it planned to have 16 Morrisons stores open in Jersey by the autumn of this year.

It is a private company and does not publish its profit figures.

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