If the Irish Republic opts for UK-style, out-of-town superstores, in a bid for cheaper groceries, there will be widesparead casualties in the independent sector, according to Musgrave group MD Seamus Scally.
He told a parliamentary committee in Dublin that such stores were “over three times bigger than anything we have here” and only 12-16 would be needed to cover the Republic.
They would decimate town centres, he warned, wreck plans for balanced regional development and urban renewal and isolate the old, the disabled and those without cars.
Testifying to the committee, which is investigating why Irish grocery prices are higher than elsewhere in the EU, Scally argued that the sector was highly competitive. Food prices had fallen in the first nine months of the year, he said, but a wide range of business costs - wages, energy, insurance, waste disposal and telephones - had increased significantly. In Britain and Spain, where Musgrave also operated, labour costs were 30-50% lower and waste disposal four to seven times cheaper.
Lidl Ireland’s MD Patrick Kaudewitz told the committee the growth of discount stores was forcing big players like Tesco and Dunnes to cut prices. In four years, Lidl had opened 48 stores, he said, but expansion plans were hampered by the high price of sites and inconsistent planning decisions. He called on government to streamline the planning system, “so that we can carry on increasing our store network”.
Anthony Garvey