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Bargain hunters shop around as cost of living crisis bites

Local supermarket shoppers are becoming less rigid about their loyalty to well-known brands and much savvier when it comes to snapping-up special offers and deals on groceries.

That’s according to one of County Galway’s most successful retailers – and Michael McInerney of SuperValu in Loughrea said the rising cost of living, particularly energy prices, was changing consumer habits.

He said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the future retail landscape although the War on Ukraine could continue to hit sentiment in the next six months.

A cold winter, with spiralling energy prices, was another threat on the horizon.

But Mr McInerney, whose newly revamped SuperValu anchors Loughrea Shopping Centre, said the combined retail offering of its town centre coupled with the variety of stores at the shopping centre, gave Loughrea an edge to rival other towns of its size in the West – and even Galway City.

With inflation running at levels not seen since the 1980s, Mr McInerney confirmed shoppers who were traditionally very loyal to brands were less rigid now.

“People are using more own-brand products, and they are shopping more on special offers. So if you’re a Lyons’ Tea drinker, and there’s a special offer on Barry’s Tea on a given week, you’ll change to Barry’s handy enough when you see there’s a half price deal in front of you,” Mr McInerney said.

He said shoppers in SuperValu who use their app, switch to own brand and who avail of special offers can save €65 every week.

Mr McInerney insisted that SuperValu charged the same or cheaper than Aldi and Lidl on many products.

“They may have 1,500 products and we have 15,000, and not all our products are own brand and not all are on special offer. So if you come in and start buying the more premium lines, which you can’t get elsewhere, that’s maybe where there’s a misconception about our price position.

“But we’re trying to educate the customer that they can actually save if you have discipline. You can take €65 off your shopping each week with own brand, special offers, and the Supervalu app,” he said.

Despite the impact of the Ukraine War which followed on from Covid-19’s blow to retail, Loughrea Shopping Centre has expanded to include a variety of stores including Aldi, Born, Power Sports, Homeworld, High Performance Unit, The Barber Shop, Lana and Belle gift store, Pet Stop, World of Wonder, Café Jaz, Roots, Careplus and Obsession. Collectively they employ about 400, with just under 200 of them in SuperValu.

The additional shops have boosted footfall at SuperValu in Loughrea which was “over-trading”, and was “bucking the trend” of similar supermarkets, he said.

The shopping centre was also benefitting from the opening of the Plaza in Loughrea, a busy Loughrea Hotel and Spa, and the success of large local employers such as Chanelle Veterinary.

“We’ve no parking charges and can land 400 cars in our car park. We’ve a good retail offering up town as well. We’ve lots of traditional high-profile retailers in the town centre and now also a very modern offering in the shopping centre and between the two you have a retail offering that would rival anywhere,” Mr McInerney said of Loughrea.

He insisted that the shopping centre complemented the offering of retail outlets in the town centre rather than taking away from it.

“Our weekly footfall is over 30,000 per week in Loughrea Shopping Centre. The town population isn’t more than 5,000. So how could Loughrea Shopping Centre be bad for the town? We’re trying to rival Galway City; to offer the best choice and variety. Everything you’d need for a day’s shopping, it’s all there, it’s brand new, it’s modern with big spacious stores,” said Mr McInerney.

The proximity of German discounter Aldi, next door to SuperValu in Loughrea, was a positive, he said.

“We share customers. We’ve our own loyal army who go to Supervalu only. You have others who will go to Aldi only. You have a large contingent who surf between both. That’s where both stores gain. They buy certain items in Aldi and other items that they’d only buy in Supervalu, and they’re only parking the car once. You might have a cup of tea then, and maybe call to the sport store or the barbers. We’ve 30,000 transactions weekly and growing. That has to be good for the town, and not just the shopping centre,” Mr McInerney said.

Despite his positive outlook, Mr McInerney predicted a “very uncertain three to six months” ahead.

“What way will the war pan out? What way will kilowatt hours cost for the next six months? Nobody knows how that will affect people’s buying patterns, and what they put into their shopping basket.

“I think people may still change their habits, and that still has to be played out yet. But Loughrea, with the offering we have in the shopping centre, in tandem with the offering of the town, is in a better position than other similar towns with the same population that might not have the same offering as us,” added Mr McInerney.

Photo: Michael McInerney

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