Wal-Mart age looms as retail size cap is reviewed
THE Government is to consider lifting the cap on the size of retail units, which could allow large multiples such as US grocer Wal-Mart to enter the Irish market.
Large retailers, such as US firms Wal-Mart and Costco, have ruled out entering Ireland because of the restrictions on store sizes, but a review of the guidelines currently under way could remove the limits for grocers. Under 2001 guidelines, the current maximum floorspace is 3,500 square metres.
However, in 2005 an exception was made to allow Swedish furniture giant IKEA open a 30,000-square-metre store in Dublin.
Almost 200 submissions have been made to a review of the Retail Planning Guidelines, with new rules expected to be put out for public consultation before the end of the year.
The review was ordered by Planning Minister Ciaran Cuffe and comes as smaller independent and family-owned stores argue that out-of-town large stores have an adverse effect on town centres.
But the Competition Authority has said that the current limits could prevent competition by imposing restrictions on the size of new outlets.
A consultation paper produced by the Department of the Environment says existing floorspace limits "should be assessed to determine whether they remain appropriate".
A spokesman said the issue would be considered in the context of new guidelines. "We hope to have guidelines out for public consultation before the end of the year," he said.
The exemption which was granted to IKEA only applies to large-scale retail warehouses which have a regional, or national, catchment. It does not apply to grocers.
They are only permitted in the large Gateway towns and cities of Athlone/Tullamore/ Mullingar, Cork, Dublin, Dundalk, Galway, Letterkenny, Limerick/Shannon, Sligo and Waterford.
Tesco have two stores at the upper limit in Maynooth in Co Kildare and Clarehall in north Dublin.