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Checkout At 40: Valu Yourself (Nov 1990)

By Publications Checkout
Checkout At 40: Valu Yourself (Nov 1990)

This year, Checkout commemorates its 40th anniversary and with this in mind, every week, Retail Intelligence is going to ‘reel in the years’ and publish a story from our extensive archives. This feature from November 1990 discusses the growth of Nally's SuperValu Group.

Many a rural community in Ireland is finding itself the centre of media attention at the moment, thanks to the efforts of a committed band of SuperValu retailers. Although, just ten years ago, anyone who said they were starting up their own supermarket business would more likely have been committed to the local asylum instead.

The Irish retailing scene was once overwhelmed with big chains. The all-pervasive, all purpose multiples led by Dunnes and Quinnsworth had all but smothered the life out of the independent retail sector. But the death of the independents would have spelt doom for the wholesalers who supplied them too, and in 1978 one wholesaler decided it was time to stop the ‘rot’.

Musgraves, one of Ireland’s largest wholesaling businesses, was servicing VG and Shoprite, but with a combined market share of less than 4% it was little match for the multiples who had vanquished Dublin and were now moving out to the provinces. In the late seventies and early eighties, 8,000 smaller grocery shops were driven out of business in the face of the advancing competition.

The people of Musgraves, however, have a reputation for miracle-working. They identified that the problem with most Irish symbol groups was the lack of any good common standard and specific targeting. The solution seemed simple – create two retail outlets. One, SuperValu, to pursue the “trolley” business, and the other, Centra, to chase the “bag and basket” trade.



The theory behind the chain seems simple and direct, but the people of SuperValu are more anxious that visitors get to meet the people who have turned theory into successful practice. And where better to start than in stores that have won Ireland’s prestigious IQA National Hygiene Supreme Award two years running.

The proud owner of these stores is one Joe Nally, 46, an independently minded man with a chequered career and a deep love for grocery retailing. Nally is one of SuperValu’s stars. A self-confessed “maverick”, his personal brand of retail management has not only given the people of Trim, Kells and Leixlip an outstanding supermarket to shop in, but also spurred other people to go out and set up their own businesses.


Twenty four years in retailing has given Joe Nally ample time to hone his ideas about how a supermarket should be run and [how to] make them work. The only thing that is obvious as soon as you walk into any of his stores is the rapport Nally has built up with his staff. People, he believes, are the most important resource a business has.


“I believe we’re tried to encourage our staff that if they ever have a problem, they can go to the manager or the supervisor or me, whenever I happen to be around. We communicate very well – I will speak to everyone today. Salaries are reviewed every 12 months and every time someone changes their job; we make a point of not cheating people, then they won’t cheat us,” says Nally.

© 2015 - Checkout Magazine by Stephen Wynne-Jones

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