‘We’ll keep on adding Aldi stores here as long as we are grow­ing our sales’

Irish Independent - Business Week - - INTERVIEW -

GILES Hur­ley breezes out of the con­fer­ence room at the Her­itage Kil­lenard Ho­tel just out­side Por­tar­ling­ton. The man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Aldi Ire­land has just been ral­ly­ing the troops – sup­pli­ers in this case – and field­ing what he says were some tough ques­tions.

About 400 del­e­gates at­tended the day­long con­fer­ence and got to meet Aldi’s buy­ers face-to-face to talk about their prod­ucts and what the Ger­man dis­counter is look­ing for.

“Our mes­sage was fo­cused on some of the chal­lenges there are now in the mar­ket for our sup­pli­ers,” says Hur­ley, who’s squeez­ing in an in­ter­view be­fore he legs it to the air­port to catch a flight to Scot­land.

Brexit is an ob­vi­ous chal­lenge, but sup­pli­ers – Aldi has about 175 in Ire­land – also quizzed Hur­ley about why they should be do­ing busi­ness, or more busi­ness, with the chain. This is no place for wall­flow­ers.

“There’s also un­prece­dented lev­els of com­pe­ti­tion, cur­rency and (gro­cery) de­fla­tion, Brexit on the hori­zon and a gen­eral air of un­cer­tainty,” says Hur­ley (42), who lives in War­wick in the UK Mid­lands and com­mutes reg­u­larly to Ire­land and Scot­land in his role as an Aldi man­ag­ing di­rec­tor with re­spon­si­bil­ity for the two coun­tries .

He over­sees al­most 130 Aldi out­lets in Ire­land, hav­ing joined the group as an area man­ager 18 years ago when there were just five here.

“We have known chal­leng­ing times in Ire­land, but this is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent,” he adds, point­ing out that the con­fer­ence with sup­pli­ers was about re­as­sur­ance as much as any­thing else.

At least Aldi has a solid mar­ket po­si­tion to con­sole them, if that’s what part of what they needed. The re­tailer is also neck-and­neck with fel­low Ger­man dis­counter Lidl in terms of their share of the gro­cery mar­ket in Ire­land.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est fig­ures from re­search group Kan­tar World­panel, Aldi has an 11.6pc share of the mar­ket in terms of value of sales. Lidl has 11.7pc (Tesco and Su­perValu are joint first, each with 22pc).

Back of the en­ve­lope cal­cu­la­tions based on sales fig­ures from Su­perValu re­sults in both Aldi and Lidl each likely gen­er­at­ing an­nual sales in the re­gion of €1.4bn in Ire­land.

Aldi doesn’t split out its num­bers for Ire­land, but the chains work on wafer-thin mar­gins. Aldi’s com­bined UK and Ire­land op­er­a­tion posted rev­enue of £8.74bn (€9.9bn) last year and a £255.6m (€289.5m) profit. Sales were 13.5pc higher, but prof­its

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