SuperValu ousts Tesco as grocery chain king
SuperValu has toppled Tesco as Ireland's biggest grocery chain - the first time in more than a decade that the British retailer hasn't held the top spot here.
SuperValu, which is controlled by Cork-based retail group Musgrave, but whose stores are almost entirely operated by local owners, just managed to nudge Tesco from the throne, securing a 24.9pc share of the Irish grocery market compared with Tesco's 24.7pc.
The latest set of figures from research group Kantar Worldpanel show that Dunnes Stores has retained its number three position, with a 22.7pc share in the 12 weeks to March 29.
But SuperValu may not hold on to the lead position for long.
Its marketing director Ray Kelly conceded that it was likely Tesco and SuperValu would probably switch positions a number of times in the coming months before any definitive decision could be made about which is top dog.
"It's nice to be recognised, but Tesco is not going to sit back," he said. "To me, the real secret for our brand is staying true to what we're about."
Kantar director David Berry also said that Tesco and SuperValu were likely to continue sparring for the top spot in the coming months.
The value of Tesco's sales in Ireland fell 3.4pc in the latest period, while SuperValu recorded a 0.6pc rise.
Tesco said: "The retail market is highly competitive and we're intensifying our efforts to give customers the best overall value, range and experience every time they shop in Tesco. The fundamentals of our business are strong and we are focused on working hard to deliver on our customers' expectations."
Tesco has had a torrid time in Britain and Ireland over the past year. It was hit last year with a damaging accounting scandal.
Next week, the retailer will release figures for its 2014-2015 financial year.
Tesco's like-for-like sales, excluding VAT and fuel, fell 5.5pc in Ireland in the crucial Christmas trading period, which ran for six weeks to January 3. In the 19 weeks to January 3, like-for-like sales in Ireland fell 6pc.
But Kantar said that Tesco had some reason to be more optimistic about its operation in Ireland.
The chain didn't lose any shoppers during the latest period covered by Kantar, and its customers have been making the same number of shopping trips to the retailer and spending more.
The Kantar figures also show that German chains Lidl and Aldi have continued to prove a hit with Irish consumers now used to years of austerity. The two chains now have a combined 16.9pc share of the Irish grocery market.
Sales at Aldi were 11.1pc higher in the latest period, giving it an 8.7pc market share. At Lidl, sales were up 8.2pc, giving it a 9.7pc market share.