Retail in the Republic of Ireland

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In the Republic of Ireland, the retail sector provides an important source of employment and forms the majority of the tertiary sector of the economy.


The Republic of Ireland has two major supermarket chains: Tesco Ireland, a subsidiary of Tesco plc with 91 stores (4 superettes, 5 small super, 44 large super, 38 hyper), and Dunnes Stores, owned by a trust consisting of members of the family of its founder, Ben Dunne Snr, and boasting 123 stores (this number includes some stores without supermarkets, however). A third large supermarket chain is Superquinn, though this has only 21 stores, and is based mainly in Leinster (2 small super, 15 large super, 4 hyper). Marks and Spencer also operates a small number of supermarket sites.

The traditional multiple supermarket chains have been also challenged by the emergence of the Musgrave SuperValu supermarket format. These stores are operated mostly by franchisees, although several franchisees have built up large chains in their own right within the SuperValu group. There are now 173 SuperValu supermarkets in Ireland. SPAR and Londis have also branched out into supermarket format franchise stores, with their Eurospar and Londis Plus formats. As yet these are a minority of stores.

Recent years have also seen the emergence of cut-price own brand chains Aldi and Lidl into the Irish market. These two chains have, in the space of half a decade, won an 8% market share, and operate over 100 stores in total.

While there is much competition in the supermarket sector, it was formerly tempered by the presence of the Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order 1987 (known as the "Groceries Order"). This order made it illegal to sell any good below the invoice price. The order was instituted to prevent a price war along the lines which led to the collapse of the supermarket chain H Williams in 1987, and had the effect of banning cross-subsidy and loss leaders.

However it is held by many to restrict competition, and did not prevent the withdrawal of Roches Stores from food retailing and Iceland from the Republic of Ireland altogether, both in 2005. Its removal is opposed by the Retail, Groceries, Dairy, and Allied Trades Association, the newsagents and convenience stores trade association, a powerful lobby group in Ireland. On 8 November 2005, Micheal Martin, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment announced that the Order would be revoked in early 2006. This was done via the enactment of the Competition (Amendment) Act 2006 [1] in March 2006, section 4 (1) of which explicitly repealed the Order.

Iceland returned to the Republic of Ireland in 2008.

Convenience Stores and Newsagents[edit]

Convenience store formats have been gradually displacing the traditional newsagent format in Ireland in recent times. The first convenience store format was the VG format introduced by Musgrave in 1960, becoming Centra (and SuperValu) in 1979. Other major convenience store formats include SPAR, owned in Ireland by BWG, Mace, and ADM Londis. Smaller convenience store formats include XL Stop and Shop, Costcutter, and Vivo. A small number of symbol groups which provide branded goods, but not shop formats and signage, still persist, but are gradually dying out. These include the formerly prominent Homestead brand.

Just as the convenience store groups have been moving into larger supermarket formats, so the supermarkets have been moving into smaller formats to challenge the symbol groups. Tesco operate a small number of Tesco Ireland Local and Tesco Express stores, while Superquinn operates two Superquinn Select convenience stores. Marks and Spencer also operates a small number of convenience stores under the Simply Food banner. While Dunnes Stores does not operate a separate convenience store brand, some of its Dublin city outlets now have an offering more resembling a large convenience store than a traditional supermarket.

Newsagents still exist. The Eason chain of main street newsagents and booksellers is the largest in the country, with its only major rival being the much smaller Hughes & Hughes. In Dublin the two major local chains are Tuthill's and Bus Stop.

Forecourt convenience stores[edit]

The main petrol station brands in Ireland have also moved into this area. Irish oil company Maxol has an alliance with Mace to provide convenience stores in its stations, while TOP was formerly allied with ADM Londis (and as a result, many TOP stations have Londis outlets). Esso Ireland, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, is expanding its On The Run convenience store brand, while Topaz offers its RESTore convenience store brand. Texaco Ireland (owned by Valero, formerly by Chevron Corporation) also has StarMarket stores. Topaz acquired Statoil (which had used Fareplay), and Shell. Topaz had caused some upset previously by 'using' the Petrogas (Applegreen) tag line. Smaller operators such as XL and Today are also found.

Department/Clothing Stores[edit]

The biggest clothing retailer in Ireland is Dunnes Stores, with 123 stores (some of these are food-only sites, however). Primark (under the Penney's brand) is also a major retailer in the clothing sector. Debenhams also have a chain of department stores in Ireland. The UK 'high street' chain River Island is represented by 37 stores with 15 of them in Northern Ireland. Within Dublin, Clerys and Arnotts are two major city centre department stores. Clerys only has a small number of other sites (as "At Home with Clerys"). Menarys are a Northern Irish clothing store. Tempest are another Northern Irish clothing store with a store in the Republic. Heatons are another Irish department store with 57 stores nationwide, and Brown Thomas though much smaller, is very long established and well known, and probably represents the very upper-end of the clothes retail market (but bought by Galen & Hilary Weston in 1971 so now part of a larger UK/ Canadian concern). Other clothing chains in the Republic include: Lifestyle Sports, H&M (Swedish), TK Maxx (American), and Next (UK). Avoca Handweavers is another Irish (and it seems, generally considered prestigious) small chain of stores selling some clothes fashions, but known generally for 'designer/ homemade' home & gift-wares, food and in-store cafes.

Main Street Retailing[edit]

Ireland's Main Streets are still a major draw, despite the growing number of out-of-town shopping centres. Notably, many major British 'high street' names now operate in the Republic of Ireland, such as Dixons, Next, Debenhams, Topshop, Boots, Superdrug, Argos, Dorothy Perkins, Maplin, Currys, T.K. Maxx, PC World, Game Stop and others. Irish equivalent retailers and brands still exist and are still widespread: such as newsagents Eason & Son, record stores Golden Discs, pharmacy chains Hickey's, Sam McCauley's, & McCabes, also Heatons department stores, and smaller but well known chains e.g., Dubray Books; and relative newcomers Fran and Jane, and so on. Many towns are still populated by small, family owned businesses that give a unique flavour e.g. Household Linens in Cork or Burgess in Athlone.

Shopping Centres[edit]

Out of town shopping centres, anchored by a major supermarket, have been developed in Ireland since the 1960s, with Dunnes Stores' Cornelscourt being one of the first. A precursor of the 1990s town centres was developed in Stillorgan in the late 1960s, as well as the two major Dublin city centre shopping malls, the Ilac Shopping Centre and Irish Life Shopping Mall. (These were joined in the 1990s by the Jervis Centre).

However, in the 1990s a new phenomenon of large shopping malls, not dominanted by one tenant but with a number of anchor tenants, main street names, and usually a cinema, grew up in the Dublin suburbs. These four major town centres, in order of building, are The Square, Tallaght, Blanchardstown Centre, Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, and Dundrum Town Centre.

In Munster, shopping centres have also emerged on the outskirts of Cork, Limerick and Waterford cities catering not just for the city residents but also for the suburban and country shoppers, such as Mahon Point in Cork, Crescent Shopping Centre in Limerick and City Square Shopping Centre in Waterford.

In Connacht, shopping centres have primarily developed in the centre and outskirts of Galway city including the Eyre Square Centre, Edward Square, Galway Shopping Centre and Briarhill Shopping Centre, elsewhere in The large towns of Sligo and Castlebar centres such as The Quayside and Johnston Court centres have been developed offering many new international and national retailers to these areas.

Retail Parks[edit]

In addition to these new out of town shopping malls are smaller retail parks. Located on the outskirts of approximately twenty towns and cities, ranging from Letterkenny, e.g. Letterkenny Retail Parks to Limerick, e.g. Childers Road Retail Park to Galway City e.g. Wellpark Retail Park, Galway Retail Park, Gateway Retail Park, these new parks have no internal shopping malls. They usually consist of between five and ten major outlets surrounding a large carpark. The parks are typically built beside a major road with the idea being – free parking, easy to get to and plenty of space. Some may offer drive-thru restaurants such as McDonald's/KFC or standalone coffee units (e.g. Costa Coffee). Anchor tenants often include Woodie's DIY, Atlantic Homecare, Harry Corry or Elverys Sports. Many British stores also appear in these parks (e.g. Argos and Homebase).

Digital Retail[edit]

Since 2008 Ireland has seen a slight shift to where major supermarkets are promoting shopping online. This may be contributed to the downturn in the economy and consumer demand for low prices. A recent report said that 2.6 million Irish people regularly shopped online, spending an average of €116 each per month.

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