Bid to develop NI superstore spurs speculation over Asda

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Speculation that Asda is planning a move across the Irish Sea is mounting following reports that a UK food retailer has lodged an application to build a superstore in Craigavon and may take over the anchor tenancy at a new shopping centre in Newtownards.
Ulster Unionist assemblyman David McNarry said Asda would take over the anchor tenancy at the new Castlebawn shopping centre in Newtownards, while Safeway is understood to be opening a large site in Belfast that would suit Asda’s profile.
Craigavon Borough Council has also received an application from property firm JH Turkington to develop a large food store plus three retail units at a 90,000 sq ft site in the area.
Given that Tesco and
Sainsbury already had stores in the vicinity, Asda or Safeway/ Morrisons were the only other likely candidates, said one retail source.
“It’s been rumoured for some time that Asda could use Safeway as an entry vehicle into the market, and Asda executives have been looking around Safeway stores. If Asda comes in, they will have a massive impact on the market as they will trade more aggressively than Safeway.”
Brian Long, managing director of The Grocer Top 50 member Longs Supermarkets, said: “If Asda comes in, Tesco will have to respond and independents will be caught in the crossfire.”
Although the 13 Safeway stores in the province were not very big, Safeway has a number of applications pending to develop existing sites as well as new ones, making the acquisition more appealing to Asda than it would first appear, he added.
As The Grocer revealed last July, Morrisons despatched information packs on the 13 Safeway stores in NI to a handful of retailers to test the market (The Grocer, July 24, p6).
However, many stores were out of bounds to Tesco and Sainsbury for competition reasons, prompting speculation that Asda would use the estate as an entry vehicle into the market and a base for launching a move into the Irish Republic.
Elaine Watson

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