Mus­grave to fo­cus ef­forts on growth at home – CEO

Irish Independent - Business Week - - BUSINESSWEEK - John Mul­li­gan

MUS­GRAVE, the Cork-based re­tail group that con­trols the Su­per­Valu, Cen­tra and Day­break brands, has re­turned to “nor­malised” prof­itabil­ity fol­low­ing years of challenging eco­nomic con­di­tions, ac­cord­ing to CEO Chris Martin.

He said the group was al­most cer­tain to main­tain its fo­cus on the do­mes­tic and Span­ish mar­kets for growth in com­ing years, af­ter ditch­ing its loss-mak­ing Bri­tish op­er­a­tions in 2015.

Mus­grave’s re­ported group turnover was flat at €3.7bn last year, but on a com­pa­ra­ble and con­stant-cur­rency ba­sis was 3.4pc higher. Group pre-tax profit, ex­clud­ing a €15.5m net pen­sion gain, af­ter it closed its fi­nal de­fined ben­e­fit scheme last year, was €73m, com­pared to €38.1m a year ear­lier from con­tin­u­ing op­er­a­tions. The pre­vi­ous year’s fig­ure also ex­cluded pen­sion gain of €14.7m.

Asked if Mus­grave would ever have the am­bi­tion to re-en­ter the Bri­tish mar­ket, not­with­stand­ing Brexit, Mr Martin told the Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent that many global gro­cery re­tail­ers have been de­cid­ing to fo­cus on their do­mes­tic mar­kets.

“A lot of peo­ple are re­turn­ing to their do­mes­tic mar­kets, say­ing that’s the real op­por­tu­nity,” he said. “The re­al­ity is that Mus­grave and its brands are ab­so­lutely play­ing to that.

“I see that there is a real growth op­por­tu­nity across the is­land of Ire­land. We are look­ing, where ap­pro­pri­ate, to go in­ter­na­tional.”

That wider in­ter­na­tional move is be­ing spear­headed by the Su­per­Valu mar­ket­place that Mus­grave es­tab­lished on Alibaba’s Tmall retailing plat­form this year, ini­tially sell­ing own­brand goods, such as ce­re­als, jams, bis­cuits and tea.

It is pri­mar­ily tar­geted at China-based shop­pers.

Mr Martin said the ex­pe­ri­ence so far had been “in­ter­est­ing”.

Brexit posed a chal­lenge, he ac­knowl­edged, but the Ir­ish econ­omy was now in a much stronger po­si­tion than be­fore.

“It (Brexit) is cre­at­ing un­cer­tainty,” he said. “For food, there are chal­lenges. The re­al­ity of a hard Brexit will mean tar­iffs and those tar­iffs will im­pact goods as they come from the UK to Ire­land.

“We want to pro­tect the con­sumer as much as pos­si­ble from any im­pact of tar­iffs.

“For home-grown prod­ucts, there is an op­por­tu­nity for (Ir­ish) sup­pli­ers to step in and ser­vice the Ir­ish mar­ket. That shouldn’t be for­got­ten. “It’s not all doom and gloom.” Sales at Su­per­Valu, Ire­land’s big­gest gro­cery re­tailer, rose 2.4pc to €2.67bn last year, while Cen­tra sales were up 3pc at €1.59bn.

Chris Martin says the com­pany will pri­ori­tise the Ir­ish mar­ket

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