Channel ferry firm cuts price of duty-free goods

A cross-Channel ferry company has cut duty-free prices on beer, spirits and cigarettes in an attempt to safeguard Easter trade from its rival Eurotunnel.

Stena has cut prices on all its routes to France by up to two-thirds and is selling 24 cans of Fosters for pounds 9.99, pounds 20 less than the average High Street price.

Although this is the second year Stena has reduced selected duty-free lines at Easter, the move is seen as a retaliation to a long-term promotion by Eurotunnel which is offering 66 per cent off retail off duty-free prices at its terminals in Folkstone and Calais.

Eurotunnel, which is selling a litre of gin for pounds 4.65, a litre of vodka and whisky for pounds 6.65 and 200 cigarettes at pounds 9.05 said the ferry companies were doing too little too late to save their duty-free business. Dominic Fry, director of communications, said: "Ours is a long-term pricing policy and not just a special offer. Unlike us, the ferry companies are offering an extremely limited range of products. Customers who want to buy duty free are just not travelling on the ferries any more."

A spokesman for Stena said the yearly product promotions were extremely successful and he described the company as a "floating shop". He added: "We must give people reasons to travel across the channel by ferry, but we are not just a retail chain we are a leisure service company. The brands on offer are popular and well-known. The people love it and they keep coming back for more."

However rival ferry company, P&O, said it would not be cutting duty-free prices. "We don't need to manipulate prices for people to travel with us," a spokesman said. Recent retail industry figures show cross-Channel purchases account for 14.7 per cent of the UK's "off-trade" - items bought in off licences or supermarkets - and experts predict the share could grow by 20 per cent by 2000.

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