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The news today that Superquinn is to be subsumed into SuperValu is probably to be expected since Superquinn was absorbed into the Musgrave organisation, which owns both brands. Superquinn, which was started by Fergal Quinn in 1960, and is one of the most loved Irish supermarkets, that attracts a loyal customer following due to the brands service quality and speciality own products and availability of favoured Irish brand products. The immediate reaction on social media and twitter to the demise of the brand and the merger with SuperValu shows the level of loyality out there to the legendary Superquinn sausage and the other quintesentially unique products exclusive to the supermarket chain.
The upshot of the decision today is that 102 members of staff at the Superquinn head office in Lucan will be made redundant and that comes on top of the 180 job losses and closure of four stores at Marks and Spencers. This is in effect a bad day in retailing and for the customer who will now lose an element of choice on the high street and will see the bigger chains gain a stronger hold on the marketplace. As a result of todays decision by Musgarves, the newly merged SuperValu will be the second strongest retailer in Ireland behind Tesco and just ahead of Dunnes Stores, this means those three chains will corner 75% of the market. A further 10% or so is controlled by the German discount stores, Lidl and Aldi.
The main change in the Irish retail supermarket landscape in recent years has been the shift of retailers to own brand budget products that compare favourably with the recognised brands. The reason that these products are being pushed and are proving successful, is that they are of far superior quality to the old yellow and white pack brands, that were perceived as inferior. While better value quality products are to be welcomed, what will be the impact on the traditional Irish brands, we may have an affinity with the Lyons, Barrys, Galtee, Denny and Avonmore brands to name but a few, but they are slowly but surely being squeezed out of the market by comparable own brand products.
The recognised brands have been slow to be competitive, so much so, that they are now being removed from shop shelves by the large retailers. This trend is expected to continue and soon could see the demise of the traditional Irish brands if they cannot respond quickly and effectively to the changing nature of the consumer. SuperValu in particular has invested greatly in promoting their quality own brand products, expect to see this continue in order to compete with Tesco who are slowly clearing their shelves of traditional Irish brands to make way for own brand products, this is particularly the case in their meat and dairy ranges.
The potential demise of the Irish brand and homogenised growth of the own brand product is looming and Irish consumers must decide if they are happy to let the traditional brands fade away in favour of value. The growth of the German retailers has changed the buying habits of Irish consumers who are satisfied to move to more generic brands if they are of good value and quality, the decision we as consumers must make, is are we happy to see our indigeonous home grown loved brands disappear from the shelves.
The Government has been fairly inactive in promoting buying Irish and supporting Irish companies and we have seen spending in the Irish economy fall by 3% in the first quarter of this year which has partly led us back into recession. So the question we address is do we as consumers want quality brands, such as were available from the butchers counter at Superquinn or are we happy to make do with adequate brands of average to good quality for reduced prices.
Should we not as consumers have the choice of both, should we not have the choice to enjoy good quality fish, meat etc. treats once or twice a week as well as having good quality reasonably priced traditional brands, it appears however the two may not be compatible. We have seen butchers, bakers, fishmongers close in towns and cities throughout the country and we are now left with almost exclusively the big supermarket chains that control 85% of the retail supermarket market. When we complain about the demise of the specialist providers, we must be mindful of our spending habits over the past few years.