Up­mar­ket gro­cer closes only NI store

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Food And Drink - BY RACHEL MARTIN

UP­MAR­KET gro­cer Sim­ply Fresh has closed its first store here, just two months af­ter it opened.

The com­pany opened in the for­mer Danske Bank branch in Holy­wood, Co Down in De­cem­ber.

But de­spite trans­for­ma­tion ef­forts in­clud­ing a ma­jor re­fit of the for­mer bank, it closed its doors this week.

How­ever, the firm says it’s com­mit­ted to work­ing with more fran­chise-hold­ers here in fu­ture and will not rule out fu­ture plans for North­ern Ire­land.

The store was owned by Mal­colm Hall, who runs Food­halls Ire­land and also owns An­nagh Bridge Su­per­shop in Por­ta­d­own.

He said he first came across the con­cept of Sim­ply Fresh at the 2015 Re­tail In­dus­try Awards, where he was named re­tailer of the year. But he said he did not wish to com­ment on its clo­sure.

Sim­ply Fresh is a sym­bol group and the stores are run by in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers who li­cense the brand.

A spokes­woman for the firm said: “It is with great re­gret that the Holy­wood store had to close its doors. All Sim­ply Fresh stores are run by in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers un­der a li­cence. A full re­view of the lo­cal area and its po­ten­tial for a new store was un­der­taken prior to its de­vel­op­ment.

“How­ever, sales since the store opened have been lower than an­tic­i­pated and the store owner has been un­able to con­tinue fi­nanc­ing his busi­ness.

“There­fore he has re­luc­tantly taken the de­ci­sion to close the store, with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.

“How­ever, if there was an op­por­tu­nity for a lo­cal en­tre­pre­neur to take over the store with the right fi­nances this is some­thing that we would con­sider, as we feel the site has much po­ten­tial.

“We are very dis­ap­pointed with this out­come. How­ever, Sim­ply Fresh re­mains com­mit­ted to grow­ing the brand and sup­port­ing in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers across North­ern Ire­land.”

Sev­eral other re­tail­ers, such as Aldi and Waitrose, which have fared well in Great Bri­tain have nonethe­less not taken on the North­ern Ire­land mar­ket.

How­ever, re­tailer Mccoll’s said it would bring its brand to the re­gion when it took over five North­ern Ire­land stores as part of a deal to take over al­most 300 Co-op stores across the UK.

Glyn Roberts, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the North­ern Ire­land In­de­pen­dent Re­tail Trade As­so­ci­a­tion, said: “It’s sur­pris­ing that the store has closed so soon af­ter open­ing.

“The pace of change in re­tail is very fast now. New re­tail­ers have a very tight time­frame to make their mark and in re­cent years this has be­come even smaller. They re­ally have to hit the ground run­ning.

“North­ern Ire­land is a very hard mar­ket for new gro­cers to get into. There are a lot of very high qual­ity in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers and delis do­ing ex­ceed­ingly well here and they have very loyal cus­tomers.”

The 2,800sq ft shop fea­tured a Sim­ply Fresh kitchen serv­ing break­fast, lunch and din­ner with a menu in­clud­ing smoked salmon and egg muffins, gluten-free burg­ers, as well as an in-store din­ing area.

Sim­ply Fresh mar­kets it­self as an up­mar­ket gro­cery store chain. The store’s con­cept is to fo­cus on Bri­tish prod­ucts and or­ganic, healthy foods. How­ever, its stores also in­clude a core range of branded gro­cery lines.

The chain also placed a ma­jor fo­cus on sup­port­ing lo­cal sup­pli­ers and of­fer­ing eco-friendly re­fill sta­tions for prod­ucts such as olive oil and de­ter­gent.

Sim­ply Fresh has out­lets in UK lo­ca­tions such as Leam­ing­ton Spa, but its only North­ern Ire­land store has shut

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