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