Market research by the Musgrave Group shows a significant percentage of UK consumers are growing tired of superstore shopping, claims MD Seamus Scally.
“They are happy to shop locally if the right service is provided for them in a quality environment and the multiples are now responding to that,” he said in an interview with the Irish Times in Dublin, his first since the purchase of Londis.
“There is very significant evidence that the UK multiples targeted independents, using predatory tactics to try and put them out of business.
“They have not been able to do that in the Republic because of the Groceries Order (which bans below-cost selling). That is the key reason it is essential the order remains in place.”
He argued the regulation, far from hampering competition, provided Irish consumers with a greater choice than in Britain “where four players control over 80% of the market”. On the Londis deal, he said: “We have paid what we consider to be a very full price, but a fair price.
“What we have bought is the goodwill of 2,200 or so independent retailers.”
He was confident the earlier failed bid had not damaged that goodwill and pointed to the 97% vote in favour of the deal as evidence shareholders “were very happy to accept our offer and had decided we were the best fit, though there were other bids and some higher offers”.
Scally said he was optimistic the UK operation could grow organically. Since announcing the planned sale of the Budgens stores to franchisees, the group has received about 600 inquiries from prospective retailers.
As well as selling the stores, a priority would be combining the franchise business of Budgens and Londis “so we get the benefits of increased size through better purchasing and other synergies”.