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Information about prices and what to buy in France –, for day trippers, shoppers and visitors to Calais, France.

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prices in France

Prices in France

Many food products are cheaper in France. We also list the main words and terms you will find on a French label. Prices do change but we hope this guide will help you save even more on your trips to France.

Food to buy when in France – anchovies, baby food, biscuits, bottled water, cat litter, chocolate, most dairy products, cheese, juices, ground coffee, cous cous, rice, mashed potato, Nesquick, packet soups, salt, sugar, pasta, jam, mustard, mayonnaise, Nutella spread, olive oil, oil, pasta sauces, salad dressings, most soft drinks, tinned sweet corn. We find packet soups very good value. As always the range of food, as well as the quality is usually better in France.

DON'T BUY – smoked salmon, dog food, cereal, concentrated milk, ketchup, tinned tuna and sardines.

Don't overload! – more

We check prices all the time (as well as seeking verification of our research from the companies concerned). Prices of many goods from cheese to beer are cheaper in France. Regular updates and additions are made to our web pages so that you can form your own opinion as to where to go in order to get the best deal or save the most (depending on your requirements).

September 2011 – Good to see Ocado selling the Reflets range of quality foods from Carrefour Supermarket in France. However, by popping across the channel you can save 30 – 35% on the prices quoted. You get a bigger choice as well.

TIP – Check prices at home before you go, and use these pages to help you save money. To go direct to a price survey for a particular item click on the link. We have also listed in detail on another page those items which are best buys, which you may find useful to take with you. We have had e-mails suggesting that its not always a good idea to wait until Calais before stocking up when returning from holiday. If you have a view on this, let us know

Shopping in France is not just about saving money, as the range and quality of the goods is usually so much better in a French supermarket. For example, we enjoy a French brand of fruit juices called Andros. In London, Sainsbury's "Taste the difference" lemonade made from freshly squeezed lemons, costs 6% more (exchange rate £1 = 1.06 euro) than a similar product in France, yet has 30% less lemon juice and 16% more sugar. In general British products have more fat and sugar in them.

andros fruit juice – Andros premium fruit Juices.

January and July British media reports – "End of the Booze cruise"

The British press has been full of stories saying how the booze cruise is over. However on careful examination they are not being 100% truthful. It is certainly not as cheap as it was, but that's because of the shameful depreciation of the Pound.

Comparing, for example, a British beer rarely sold in France with a United Kingdom supermarket price is just not playing cricket. Likewise champagnes. Our papers were full of "super deal" stories before Xmas, yet when we last checked, branded Champagne was 20 to 40% cheaper in France. Yes there are silly prices available, but as one wine critic noted, "just because its cheap, does not mean it's good value". It seems clear to me that that British supermarkets operate on the headline principal. Something may well be very cheap, for a limited period, but it seems the prices of other, similar products go up to compensate.

This week we did a quick shop for the sort of things we like to buy in France. Out of 44 products, 29 were comparable. 15 or 34% could not be found in United Kingdom supermarkets (Cheeses, a baked fish dish, some fruit juice shots, fresh soups, aubergines in oil, a wheat grain dish, and different cuts of beef steak).

Overall the savings were 30.67% on United Kingdom prices. Even if you take out the wines, we still saved 8.74%.

As I often tell people, shopping in France is not just about price, but range and quality as well. Try finding a Beaujolais Cru wine in a British supermarket. In general what you will find available across British supermarkets as a whole, is what you will find in one French supermarket aisle.

Meat can be pricey in France, but at least it looks like its been cut up with a knife,rather than butchered with an axe.

CREDIT CARDS – we suggest you ring your credit card company before shopping in France – increased fraud means they are turning down shoppers cards if their spending deviates from the norm. Take your mobile – you can often sort the problem out over the phone.


The more often I do surveys the more I feel we lose out in the United Kingdom Not only are many items much cheaper in France, but the pack sizes are bigger and offer better value, the quality is generally considerably better, and the range wider and more interesting. No wonder so many of us, despite the efforts of British Revenue and Customs, like to shop in France!


Buy in France; baby food, biscuits, bottled water, chocolate (shops), Coca Cola, most dairy products (cheese, yoghurt, fromage frais, crême frêche), dry dog food, honey (better range too), mayonnaise, mustard, Nutella type spreads, olive oil, other oils, orange juice, nutella spread, packet soups, pasta sauces, tinned sweetcorn, salad dressings, salt, specialised sugars, steak, sweeteners, UHT milk, stock cubes.

Animal food – dry dog food.

Cheese(shops) All the French brands were cheaper some by a considerable margin. Own brand French cheeses are very much cheaper (20 to 60%). Whilst the limited range of French cheeses available in United Kingdom Supermarkets meant we were unable to compare all cheeses, where we were able to compare, the savings when buying in France ranged from 15 – 60%. Best buys were (% savings in brackets); Soignon Mild goats cheese (75%), Soignon Roll – St. Maure (61.5%), own brand Camembert (56.6%), Roquefort Societé – 52% m.g. (47.5%), own brand Roquefort (46.7%), Laughing Cow 12 pack (32.9%), own brand Brie (25.3%).

Coffee – Ground coffee is much cheaper (best value is arabica or robusta), as are the accessories. Some of the powders/granules are as well.

Eggs in France

Labelling of eggs in France is in line with E.U. directives as in the United Kingdom.

There are four types; Traditional – from chickens in cages, Au sol – from chickens that can roam free in an enclosed area, Plein air – applies to chickens free to roam (minimum 4 m2 space per chicken) and Bio (organic) eggs from chickens free to roam outsiode and whose feed must be at least 90% organic).

We have also seen a label "oeufs de prairie".

Dried foods in France

Rice, cous cous, mashed potato, cereals, and milk flavourings are usually much cheaper in France.

Best Buys (All the best buys); Nesquick and own brand equivalents are much cheaper and there is more choice in France. Rice, was much cheaper as well – a useful item to stock up with as it is light. Specifically Uncle Ben's Long Grain rice (4 x 125g packs) came in at 52.9% cheaper. It was difficult comparing cous cous as the range in England was minimal. Spaghetti was always cheaper, although the cheapest available came in at a whopping 34% cheaper in France. Cereals are a definite bad buy – they were overwhelmingly much more expensive. Mashed potato on the other hand, came in as a very good buy (up to 49% cheaper), and again, the range and choice was much bigger.

Nuts and dried fruits can be much cheaper in France. Again the range in France was considerably bigger. Where we were able to compare products, we found that Dried fruits were generally cheaper (dates 40.7% cheaper, Apricots 35.5%). Nuts offers considerable savings but not always (Almond powder was 92.4% cheaper, pistachio nuts 61.2%) but unsalted cashews and walnuts were much more expensive.

Dried fruit – Apricots (abricots), Dates (datte), Figs (figues), Pineapple (ananas), Prunes without stones (denoyantes).

Nuts – Almond (amandes), Hazelnuts (noissettes décortiquées), Peanut sin shells (Arachides), Pine Nuts (pignons), Popcorn (eclaté), Walnut (cerneaux de Noix).

Again the range in France was considerably bigger. Buying nuts offer considerable savings but not always (Almond powder, pistachio nuts were cheaper though) but unsalted cashews and walnuts were much more expensive. Where we were able to compare products, we found that dried fruits were generally cheaper.


A very good deal. Fresh tuna is £14.95 in my local Sainsbury's – in France it is just under £8.00 a kilogram (depending on the time of year. My family thought it fresher and tastier too. I recently bought some skate wings for just under £4.00 a kilogram. Seems a bargain. In general most white fish is cheaper as well as tuna, prawns, mussels and anchovies.

Household goods in France

Consider buying these items in France – soap powders, softeners, baby wipes, CD's, toothpaste, shampoo, cordless kettles, kitchen ware, aluminium foil, car stereo's, push chairs, car seats, travel cots, bike seats, baby clothes, toys, mountain bikes.

We hear that car oils are cheaper, especially when on offer in supermarkets. Make a note of the one you use, as well as the United Kingdom price before you go! Windscreen wipers can be cheaper as well.

Cyclists should look out for racks and gears.

Cleaning products – Consider buying these items in France – soap powders, softeners, baby wipes, CD's, toothpaste, shampoo, cordless kettles, kitchen ware, aluminium foil, car stereo's, push chairs, car seats, travel cots, bike seats, baby clothes, toys, mountain bikes.

Most of the own brand items were very much cheaper in France. However, Finish products (Calgonit in France), did not offer a saving.

Best Buys – making an effort to understand the labels helps. We like the range of limescale cleaners available in French supermarkets.

Washing (clothes) cleaning products – Clothes washing products are much cheaper in France. This survey will help you find the best value items. We also list the main words and terms you will find on a French label. Tablets and capsules appear to be bad buys. Softeners seem more expensive, although the dry sheets, particularly Bounce, were very good value. Powders are best clothes washing products buys.

Fabric Softeners (Assouplissant textile). Softener Own Brand Easy Iron (Repass Facile)

Jams and spreads in France

Much better value and a considerably larger range. Jams and Spreads such as Nutella are much cheaper in France.

Best Buys (All the best buys); Jams (up to 30% cheaper), Nutella type spreads (up to 43.9% cheaper) and honey (cheapest honey was 29.2% cheaper) were good value in France. However as with many other food products the choice in France is considerably greater. Peanut butter is not a popular product in France and was more expensive.

Jams (Compote) The range and variety of jams in French Hypermarkets is considerably bigger than in ENGLAND. * Bon Mamam Light and Fruity (Legère et Fruitée) is in tall jars (370g).

Honey In the French Hypermarkets we found a vast range of honeys. In London there were just nine types at the Sainsbury's Supermarket we surveyed.

Apricot (Abricots), Blackberry (Mûre), Blueberry (Myrtille), Cherry (Cerise), Fig (Figue), Gooseberry (Groseille), Peach (Peches), Pear (Poire), Raspberry (Framboise), Red Fruits (Fruits Rouges), Rhubard (Rubarbe), Strawberries (Fraises), Blackcurrant (Cassis), Coings (Quince), Blackberry (Mûre), Peach (Peches), Strawberry (Fraises), Spreads (Pâte a tartiner), Peanut Butter (Beurre de cachettes), Honey – Creamy (Cremeux).

Mineral water

Everything was cheaper – Evian (6 x 2L) is 62% cheaper in France.

Sweeteners (artificial)

Good value all round – an item many people miss out on buying. Artificial sweeteners are always cheaper in France. Own brand powder for example is 30% cheaper, and Canderal Classic (300) was 15% cheaper. Sugars offered some savings depending on the product – Pure Cane Lumps were 15% cheaper, but Candi Sugar was much more expensive, as was ordinary granulated sugar.

canderel France – Canderel Classic.

Tinned food in France

The range seems so much wider in French Supermarkets. Lentils and spinach are always worth looking out for.


Save 20 – 60% compared with the United Kingdom. Aubergines, green beans, celeriac, courgettes, fennel, garlic, leeks, parsley, peppers, varieties of potatoes, shallots, spinach, most tomatoes and watercress (items such as avocado, broccoli, carrots and mushrooms are however much cheaper in England)


One of the best buys in France as taxes are so low. Look out for the two for one offers in the Hypermarkets.

Household items

Up to 50% cheaper. Checking French and United Kingdom prices on-line

Sometimes difficult to compare because of the extras, we strongly suggest making detailed notes of the United Kingdom product before buying in France. Guarantee's do not apply across Europe and you may have difficulty getting a repair done in the United Kingdom if buying electrical goods. You may have to take the item back to where you bought it. According to Which? Magazine these companies guarantees were valid either throughout Europe or world-wide; Braun, Canon, Philips and Sony.

Consider buying these items in France;

Audio visual/photographic – audio-visual equipment, camcorders, camcorder film, car stereo's, CD's, digital cameras are sometime cheaper. TV's – apart from the SECAM (France) vs PAL (UK) concerns, many modern TV's work with both and some models are cheaper in France. The Calais hypermarkets even have stickers showing which ones will work in the United Kingdom.

Bicycles / Cars accessories -bicycles, car seats, mountain bikes, overhead car storage boxes (shops)

Computers, scanners, printers – generally the same prices, consumables such as printing papers are worth looking at though.

DIY/Gardening goods are cheaper too – the range seems to be better as well. We suggest Leroy Merlin

Other household items – coffins, luggage, plastic tableclothes (nappe) (shops)

Disposable goods – aluminium foil, cat litter.

Kitchen ware – coffee and espresso makers, cordless kettles, glasses, pots and pans.

le creuset cooking – Le Creuset in particular is cheaper in France. /

Factory Shops in France

Tissues/ Toilet Paper / Kitchen paper – Good value, particularly tissues.

Softeners – yes, they are good value.

Washing powders – Always a good buy.

Swimming Pool chemicals – Chlorine tablets are much cheaper.

We hear that French wood burning stoves are 20 – 25% cheaper in France too. Check the United Kingdom prices before you go.

Baby / children's items

Save up to 30 %

Consider buying baby clothes, wipes, bike and car seats, mountain bikes, push chairs, toys, travel cots. Children – baby clothes, toys.

We hear that "Doliprane paracetamol Suppositoires" are much cheaper in France.

Personal items

Consider buying these items in France -toothpaste, shampoo, mens and womens shaving products including electric shavers. Check the United Kingdom price before you go. Branded clothing – particularly French brands are cheaper and the range different.

Clothes – save up to 30%. Levi 501's, branded shoes, clothes (Levi's, Morgan). For more up market stores we suggest visiting Lille (Hermes, Cartier and Louis Vuitton).

Perfumes, Cosmetics and Skin care – perfumes and skin care products (shops). Biggest savings on Skin Care particularly CLARINS. Hair removing cream and shower gels also much cheaper. The onboard ferry shops offer good value for perfumes.

Cosmetics prices varied considerably and were difficult to compare. Care is need to get the best deals.

Eyewear – save up to 20%. Shops. Disposable contact lens are much cheaper in France, just take your United Kingdom prescription to a local supplier. There is a bigger and better value range of frames (Lafont frames are particularly good value), although we were told lenses cost a bit more (apparently they are better quality). Designer glasses frames are cheaper as well, but check the United Kingdom price before going (Armani, Gucci and Dior).

Sportswear – Many branded items are much cheaper. Cycling, skiing, scuba gear, skating, tennis and windsurfing gear are also sometimes cheaper (try Go Sport at Cité Europe).

Skis and skiwear are up to 10% cheaper in France.


up to 75% cheaper. Buy it in France! The duty is so much less, so most alcohol is cheaper – best value is champagne

However, it seems it is not just our very high taxes that account for the big differences in price between France and the United Kingdom Water and soft drinks are cheaper as well. Seems we have to put up with a double whammy in the United Kingdom – Gordon Browns very high taxes, and the greedier attitude of our shops.

Beer – is much cheaper in France – there is considerable competition. Supermarkets do not offer the best prices. French Beers (Stella Artois, etc.), Grolsch, Heineken, Kronenburg, Becks, Fosters. Bad buys – Boddingtons, Guiness Original. On average where comparable, beer in cans is 50% more expensive in the United Kingdom compared with French shops in Calais.

Champagnes – (more about champagne) – are much cheaper in France and offer the biggest savings for cross channel shoppers. A lot of the own brand French stuff is good value. If you are buying for a wedding or celebration – the journey is well worth it when buying champagne.

Mineral water – a very good buy in France. Come back with 10 packs (6 x 1.5lt) of Evian and you would save about £20 for example. Although bulky it is worth filling the spare space in your car with packs of water. Branded (Evian in particular) and small bottles of mineral water offer the best bargains in France. However of all the water prices we compared even the aleast best value water was 30% cheaper in France.

Soft Drinks / Juices – just about every soft drink (fizzy) we looked at was cheaper in France, as well as most of the fruit juices. Soft drinks are generally a good buy for channel shoppers. Savings range up to 30% for popular brands. Not only that but there is a greater range and much more choice with regard to sizes in France. Fruit juice offers a mixed bag. Orange and pineapple juice offered savings, as did the Tropicana range of branded fruit drinks. Own brand apple and tomato juices were cheaper in England.

Spirits – can be much cheaper in France, but not always. Supermarkets generally offer the best prices. A lot of the own brand French products are good value.

It can be confusing trying to compare prices between England and France. For a start most products are sold in 70 or 85 cl bottles here, but 1 litre bottles in Calais. Even greater savings can be had in French Hypermarkets by buying own label or smaller companies products. A lot of the own brand French alcohol is good value.

Whisky – most whisky's are cheaper in France, many offering saving of over 30% on United Kingdom prices.

Wine – One of the best buys in France as taxes are so low. Look out for the two for one offers in the Hypermarkets.

Translation of words appearing on packets

Chaque (each, every)

Concentré (concentrated)

Déchets (waste, rubbish)

Dissout (dissolve)

Douce (freshwater)

Doses (dose)

Dure (hard)

Écouler (disperse)

Efficace (performance)

Fabricant (producer)

Flacon (Bottle)

Fraîcheur (freshness)

Garantit (guarantee)

Gaspillage (waste)

Geste (action)

Laisser (allow)

Lave-vaisselle (dish washing machine)

Libèrent (release)

Liquide (liquid)

Mettre (place)

Moyenne (standard)

Muni (supply)


A conserver à l'abri du soleil, de l'humidité et du gel ()

Avant de mettre le linge ()

Composées d'un film totalement soluble dans l'eau ()

Doser selon la salissure et la dureté de l'eau ()

Eviter de sous-remplir la machine ()

Facile d'Emploi ()

Muni d'un bec verseur ()

Pour ouvrir, tirer sur cette languette ()

Protection anti-tache et anti-bouloche ()

Réduire les déchets dus aux emballages ()

Selon leur Nature ()

Suivre les recommandations concernant le nombre de doses à utiliser ()

Utilser la température recommendée la plus basse ()

Other items

Exchange rates – changing money for your break is often confusing and expensive. Watch out for minimum commission charges – remember if the minimum charge (e.g. £2) is more than the commission rate advertised (e.g. 2%) you will have to spend more than £100 to get that advertised rate.

If shopping, try pay with sterling as many shops offer a better exchange rate than you get from a bureau. If you are changing money, particularly small amounts, the Bureau de Change in Calais offers a slighlty better deal than on the ferries. Otherwise there is little difference between the banks and the cross channel companies.

Cross Channel Fares – with the introduction of fluid pricing systems, you can never be sure if you are getting the best deals – even if you plan and book ahead.

Find the time to check out each cross channel company – they often have special deals. Avoid marketing agencies with good psoitions on search engines promising "cheapest fares". You don't get the internet booking discount, and usually get charged a credit card fee as well. The independent travel agents often have a good deal if you book a hotel as well. Again, do your homework beforehand and don't assume you will get a good deal.

Our advice;

– take nothing for granted and never assume that just because you have paid a membership fee, that you will automatically get the best deal.

– always shop around. Don't be pressurised into accepting the first fare you are offered. We found it irritating that we had to provide a whole range of information (even car registration) before getting a quote, even though we had said to begin with that we were just wanted a price.

– if you want the best deal, spend some time on the net trying out different combinations.

– when you phone (we suggest you do) say you are looking for the cheapest fare and be flexible.

– make a note of any promotion codes. Companies like Eurotunnel do not always publicise offers which are still valid.

– if booking a 5 day fare (often advertised as 120 hour) make sure you book for just under 120 hours. In our experience 120 hours exactly triggers off a higher (standard) fare.

Petrol / Diesel – savings of up to 18% on diesel. If you visit France regularly it is worth buying a diesel car. We check petrol and diesel prices every Month. Regular updates are made to our web pages so that you can form your own opinion as to where to go in order to get the best deal or save the most (depending on your requirements).

Tobacco – up to 50% cheaper. Cheaper in France and even cheaper in Belgium. Supermarkets don't sell tobacco in France, so you must find a TABAC. Prices at TABAC's are regulated so it doesn't matter where you go if in France. Pouch tobacco very much cheaper in Belgium as are cigarette papers.

Tobacco (March 2015) – Save £950.20 in Belgium and stay within the limits! SAVE up to 66.39%

(January 2014 – Save £482 in France, £835 in Belgium, £875 in Luxembourg and stay within the limits! SAVE from 55% up to 184%!)

Pouch Tobacco is overwhelmingly the best buy in Belgium. Overall, on the ferry or Eurotunnel, tobacco prices are much cheaper than in an English Shop, but more expensive than in France or Belgium.

Ferry prices compared with; United Kingdom Shops French Shops Belgium Shops
Cigarettes * 47 – 50% cheaper 2 – 5% more 5 – 12% more
Cigars 54% cheaper about 22% more About 51% more
Pouch Tobacco ** 67% cheaper about 0.56% more About 39% more

In the United Kingdom, tobacco prices are X times more expensive than on board the ferry, in France or in Belgium.

United Kingdom prices compared with; Ferry / Eurotunnel French Shops Belgium Shops
Cigarettes * 1.88 – 1.98 times 1.99 – 2.03 times 2.08 – 2.09 times
Cigars 1.95 times 2.16 times 2.86 times
Pouch Tobacco ** 3.04 times 3.06 times 4.17 times

Be careful! – HM Revenue and Customs want your shopping!

Counterfeit goods

Some useful information contained on this site;

Even C and E are now listing the proportion of counterfeit tobacco in circulation.

From their site; The dangers:

In China alone, around 100 billion counterfeit cigarettes are produced each year, many of which end up in popular holiday destinations. As fake cigarettes are not subject to any regulations, they often contain excessive levels of tar and nicotine, presenting an increased risk to smokers. For example, fake cigarettes seized in Camden in 2002 were found to contain 75% more tar, 28% more nicotine, and 36% more carbon monoxide.

Cigarettes can also be contaminated with substances such as plastics, wrapping materials, and even sand.

How to spot a fake:

Fake cigarettes usually have packaging that closely resembles the brands they imitate, while the cigarettes themselves often taste noticeably different. Look closely for spelling mistakes in the small print on the box. Other clues are foreign, or mis-spelt safety warnings – or no safety warnings at all. If in doubt, buy from a reputable stockist or duty-free outlet.

Items reported cheaper in the Which? Magazine channel prices survey August 2002

£54 on a shaver and the same on a coffee maker. £132 on a digital camera, £43 on a pair of designer glasses frames and £56 on an adult's bike.

Note 2008 – White and electrical goods are no longer generally cheaper. Check the United Kingdom price before going. There are however, still many bargains to be had.

Checking French and United Kingdom prices on-line

The French firm Darty ( – an electrical chain in France).

Ooshop – for French prices (this is Carrefours online delivery service and useful for a rough guide to French prices. Use postcode 95830 to gain access – in French).

Auchan's Calais web site is no more but prices can be checked nationally.

Check United Kingdom internet based firms prices as they are often more competitive.

If you know of any United Kingdom companies with online prices – please let us know

Why is alcohol cheaper in Europe?

We worked out the rates from popular shopping destinations. Figures in euro.

Duty per hectolitre/degree hectolitre/pure alcohol hectolitre hectolitre
VAT % Beer (4%) Spirits (40%) Still Wine Sparkling wine
BE 21.00% 1.71 664.35 35.32 120.85
FR 19.60% 2.60 580.00 2.55 6.30
LU 12.00% 0.79 416.60 - -
UK 17.50% 19.47 1,246.46 189.61 263.51
Actual cost per unit 1 litre 1 litre 75 cl 75 cl
BE 21.00% 0.02 6.64 0.35 1.21
FR 19.60% 0.03 5.80 0.03 0.06
LU 12.00% 0.01 4.17 - -
UK 17.50% 0.19 12.46 1.90 2.64
Working it out – examples Grolsch Gin Red wine Lanson
Cost – euro 1.00 10.25 3.50 19.00
BE 21.00% 1.29 20.44 4.66 24.45
FR 19.60% 1.32 19.20 4.22 22.80
LU Beer/Spirit 15% 1.19 16.58 3.92 21.28
UK 17.50% 2.09 26.69 6.34 25.42
Cost in Sterling (£)
BE £ @ £1.59 0.81 12.86 2.93 15.38
FR £ @ £1.59 0.83 12.07 2.65 14.34
LU £ @ £1.59 0.75 10.43 2.47 13.38
UK £ @ £1.59 1.31 16.79 3.99 15.99
Cheaper in France 58.29% 39.04% 50.37% 11.50%
Cheaper in Belgium 61.68% 30.57% 35.99% 3.96%
Cheaper in Luxembourg 76.16% 60.99% 61.74% 19.46%

Note; these figures are taken from a guide produced by the European Commission. The rate used is 1.59 to the pound. Shoppers will get around 1.40 euro nowadays. European Excise rates.

Why tobacco and alcohol are cheaper in Luxembourg, Belgium and France – European Excise rates 2012

Tobacco Excise duties (look at the "Cigarettes Excise Yield" chart)

Alcohol Excise Duties (look at the Still and Sparkling Wine charts)

The end of the booze cruise?

In June 2010 there were many articles announcing the end of the booze cruise in the British press. We responded on our blog at the time and archive our comments here, they remain valid.

20th June – More cr*p from the British Grocery trade. It's rubbish, believe me, I know.

As regular as clockwork the British Grocery trade tries to suggest the booze cruise is over. Their "stories" appear before the summer and Xmas peak times, no doubt designed to put people off shopping where it is still very much cheaper.

Last year they used John Smith Beer as an example of how it is now cheaper to shop at home. John Smiths is not widely available in France, and on top of that they were comparing it with a limited period offer at home.

Before Xmas we had stories about buying champagne at home. Just three weeks later when I compared the same promotions it was 20% cheaper in France!

Now they are rehashing news that is old. Sainsbury's announced it was going to close some months ago as did Tesco. Oddbins closed before Xmas, but that's because the owners wanted more independence, and have now opened a new store.

The loss of Sainsbury's is marginal as this was a joint operation with Auchan Supermarket anyway.

Seems British companies were there when they could make loads of money, and now want to pull out, just as the better exchange rate brings people back into Calais. Readers may wish to know that the most profitable stores Tesco and Sainsbury's had were in ... Calais!

We are working on a detailed response to the nonsense they peddle.

21st June – Why do the media just reprint press releases without doing any research?

Lots of articles in many newspapers and radio about the end of the booze cruise. We are amazed people don't bother checking things out. We have just one request for an interview.

Daily Mail.

The Sun.

The Grocer.

The BBC –

Did they close too soon? With the exchange rate and budget we think did.

22nd June – Our response to the "end of the booze cruise" stories

Cheap does not mean good value – the end result is pricing which fuels binge drinking not wine appreciation.

A bottle of reasonable wine in France costs as much as a small glass in a U.K. pub.

Pound for pound you get an awful lot more wine in France per bottle than in the U.K. according to wine writer Keith Reeves ( – he calculated that a bottle of wine costing £3.99 would, after all the costs involved deducted, contain just 30 pence worth of wine). In France you would get about £1.90 worth of wine at least. Spend £7.98 in the U.K. and you get £3 worth of wine, in France £4.60 (53% more wine).

Choice is severely restricted in the U.K. as supermarkets oblige shoppers to buy what they want to sell you (i.e. what they get cheap).

The average price of a bottle of wine in the U.K. is falling, despite increases in duty. With a week pound and rising costs, quality suffers as a result.

Excise duty on wine in the U.K. has increased by 20% in the last year.

The weak pound has added about 17% to the cost of a bottle of wine imported (compared with November 2007).

The range available is considerably greater in France.

The choice of wines, especially French, is very considerably larger in French supermarkets and independent wine shops.

To save money, draw up a list of what you want, check the U.K. prices, you can still save massive amounts of money. Make sure you get the best value daytrip ticket.

Buying wine in a French supermarket generally means buying something local. In the U.K. it usually means something from the other side of the world. Independent wine shops in France are likely to have tasted the wines they sell and you will most likely find something worthwhile.

An offer is an opportunity to try something new in France, in the U.K. it is price driven in a way which denigrates both the brand and the market, and forces shoppers to buy the latest deal, with little or no brand loyalty and no scope for developing their interest in wine (Earlier this month E and J Gallo Winery, which makes wines including Carlo Rossi and Turning Leaf, said that it will continue trimming back its range in the U.K. in 2010, as high levels of promotions and the "savage" tax regime make the U.K. a tough place to do business).

Deals in the U.K. are short term, prices rebound quickly shortly afterwards. Half price offers are often marketing ploys not real offers. British consumer law allows a company to offer a product at a high price in a remote shop, and then market that product as a 50% off offer based on that high price in one store. Guy Woodward, editor of Decanter magazine, says: "Don't buy discounted wine in supermarkets. If it says "£4.99 reduced from £7.99" you can be pretty certain it never would have sold at £7.99."

Lower alcohol prices (mostly time limited offers) in the U.K. have more to do with a lowering of quality than anything else. Taking into account rising costs, a considerably weaker pound and higher than inflation tax increase, British shoppers are worse off. The trade off involved in cheaper prices is a lower quality.

Cheap British wines marketed to compete with the Booze cruise, are lower in alcohol content and more likely to be thin and astringent.

If people want to cross the channel to buy booze that has been exported from the U.K. what do you expect in terms of price?

The perception that because the savings are not as great it is not worth going is self damaging. If the savings on wine for example, are still 30 to 60% on U.K. prices, even at current exchange rates, it is still worth going. Only a Customs Officer or British Grocery trade representative would argue that because the savings have fallen, it is not worth travelling even though considerable sums can still be saved.

Articles sometimes talk of higher ferry fares, quoting a foot passenger fare from years ago against the current car fare price. Historically fares are low compared with ten years ago, and considerably so. When started in 1999 a daytrip costs £64. Today it can be had from £25 and sometimes even lower.

The British media talk of cost when value is more important when it comes to wine.

The outlook is good news for booze cruisers. Alcohol taxes are already planned to go up by inflation plus 2% for the next 5 years. In real terms wine prices will increase by at least 10% over the next five years.

Many shops in Calais offer good exchange rates, offering further savings if you pay with sterling cash. To make it financially worthwhile though, you may need to buy more, and be more selective than in previous years.

A recent survey (May 2010) by showed than comparing 22 wines, average savings of 44% could be made by shopping in Calais.

24th June – Beer prices France vs U.K.

More articles in the press about the "end of the booze" cruise. Trouble is whenever we check we find the savings are still huge.

The Daily Mail article suggested Tesco were selling 24 cans of Stella for £10. Checking the website today, we see the offer is £10 per 12 cans, not 24. The offer is "buy two cases of 12 for £16". Even at this price, which is on only for one week, Calais is cheaper. At Pidou in Calais, Stella is on offer at £7.02 for a case of 24 x 25cl bottles. This works out at 23% cheaper per litre than Tesco offer, and their offer has been on for over six weeks.

*** UPDATE *** We e-mailed Tesco to ask if they ever had a £10 for 24 cans offer, and they told us they did not.

Interestingly Sainsbury's U.K. have 24 x 44cl cans for sale at £23.01. If you are a Sainsbury shopper you will therefore save 46% per litre just by crossing the channel on a day trip.

Interestingly, many of the offers in the U.K. are cheap because they are lower strength. We notice that many of the offers are for 4% alcohol not the usual 5.2%.

As with all too good to be true offers, we advise shoppers to check the "use by date".

27th June – More sloppy journalism?

Our blood boils when we read articles about booze cruising. It seems clear that most journalists do a google search and write an article based on that information. Quotes from Eastenders, which are very old, are currently being used. Eastenders is a shadow of it previous self and does not represent Calais booze cruise shops anymore.

Talk of the weak pound (25% down on a few years ago apparently) crop up, even though at current rates it is 13% down. Selective, limited period offers are quoted as if they represent the whole situation in the U.K., when prices vary considerably, and once the "special offer" is over (usually after a week or so), prices rocket.

Readers of this blog will know about the Champagnes prices issue before Xmas (articles suggested it was cheaper in the U.K. but just three weeks later we found you would save 20 – 40% in France).

Useful Outside links

– Check out the latest catalogue / leaflet offers (PDF).

rip off britain – Rip-off United Kingdom.

ooshop France – Ooshop, for French prices (this is Carrefours online delivery service and useful for a rough guide to French prices. Use postcode 95830 to gain access. In French).

telemarket shopping – Telemarket, mostly for around Paris but comprehensive.

Dietary problems? Try the Diet Alert Card.

Lavazza Coffee.

France to your door – France to your Door. French food and goods delivered to your United Kingdom address.

Links to branded spirits pages

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