Superquinn, the embattled Irish chain currently shedding 400 jobs and closing one of its stores, has been hit by a triple whammy - the defection of a key staff member, slippage in market share and a corresponding sales surge at Aldi.

Superquinn ops and planning director Ken McGrath has been head-hunted by Lidl to become its new Ireland MD. He will replace Patrick Kauderwitz, who oversaw Lidl’s Irish expansion to more than 100 stores in under a decade.

Aldi, meanwhile, has reported a 21% sales surge last year, giving it an Irish market share of 4.8% [TNS]. It is now pushing ahead with a €350m expansion plan that will add 32 new stores to its Irish network over the next three years, and is also proposing a second RDC in Mitchelstown to service its expansion.

Aldi’s MD for Ireland, Donald Mackay, acknowledged the Irish economic downturn has played a part in the company’s dramatic growth. “Consumers have come to realise that shopping with us can give savings of up to 30% on weekly grocery bills without having to compromise on quality,” he said.

Superquinn’s market share has slipped from 7.9% to 7.3%, partly due to intense local competition but also as a result of the shopper exodus to Northern Ireland. Some 200,000 households in the Republic have shopped in Northern Ireland in the past three months, according to TNS.

Tesco has also felt the effects, with its share dropping from 26.4% to 25.8% in the last quarter of 2008. Its big rival, Dunnes’ share now stands at a record high of 25%. It recently adopted the slogan: “The difference is we’re Irish”.