The Irish Competition Authority is to investigate the relationship between the country’s two largest wholesalers, Musgrave and BWG, and retail chains such as SuperValu, Centra, Spar and Mace.
According to authority chairman Dr John Fingleton, Musgrave and BWG each have 38% of the independent wholesale market. Musgrave supplies groceries to 660 SuperValu and Centra stores with sales of E3.3bn in 2003.
A total of 550 Spar and Mace shops are supplied by BWG, which had a turnover of E1.8bn in 2003. All these symbol group outlets are independently owned. But Dr Fingleton said an investigation would focus on whether “the way in which Musgrave and BWG require stores to purchase from them alone constitutes a restriction on competition in the market”.
BWG chief executive Leo Crawford dismissed as “well wide of the mark” the suggestion his company and Musgrave had a dominant position in convenience. “A dominant position tends to mean there are barriers to entry into a market. But there are no barriers to entry.”
BWG and Musgrave also insist that Dr Fingleton has overstated their market share.