Tesco poaches senior executive from rival as Irish sales plunge 6.2pc
Tesco Ireland has head-hunted a senior executive from Aldi to join its ranks, the Irish Independent has learnt.
The defection comes just months after a significant management shake-up at Aldi's Irish arm and as embattled Tesco struggles with a sharp decline in sales here.
Malachy O'Connor, a buying director at Aldi, is joining Tesco imminently and will have a senior commercial role with the group. He will report to the UK retailer's commercial director in Ireland, John Paul O'Reilly.
Tesco's Irish division saw hundreds of millions of euro worth of sales wiped from its business last year. It's been battered by reined-in consumer spending and intense competition, particularly from German discounters Aldi and Lidl, but also from other rivals including Dunnes Stores and Musgrave-owned SuperValu.
Those difficulties have seen Tesco's crown as the biggest retailer in Ireland's multi-billion-euro grocery market lose its shine.
Latest figures from research group Kantar Worldpanel show that Tesco's market share in Ireland fell 6.2pc to 26.2pc in the 12 weeks to January 5. During that period, Aldi's share jumped 20.1pc to 7.1pc, while Lidl's rose 12.2pc to 6.4pc, according to the Kantar data.
Mr O'Connor's appointment at Tesco might give it a better understanding of how to combat the threat from the discounters.
In 2012, Aldi won a €150,000 settlement against Tesco Ireland over alleged infringement of Aldi trademarks as part of a price comparison exercise.
Mr O'Connor is one of a handful of buying directors at Aldi Ireland. He has previously worked at Dunnes Stores, Superquinn and BWG, the owner of the Spar franchise in Ireland.
He studied food science, chemistry and microbiology at Queen's University Belfast and at one stage worked as a food technologist with Dunnes before becoming a buyer there.
His departure from Aldi follows a management makeover at the German retailer's Irish business as it effectively split the operation in two as it opened a major new distribution centre in Cork last September.
That centre will serve Aldi stores in Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford, Clare, Mayo, Galway, Kilkenny and Wexford. The group has more than 100 outlets in Ireland.
Niall O'Connor, who was group buying director, was appointed the new managing director of Aldi Stores Ireland, Mitchelstown region. Scotsman Donal Mackay, who had been managing director of the entire Aldi operation in Ireland, became managing director of Aldi's Naas region.
Aldi also appointed Rob Farrell as group buying director. He was previously a buying director.