This year, Checkout commemorates its 40th anniversary under its current owners, 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 news item from September 1996 recounts Iceland’s first entry into the Irish market – along with its somewhat prickly press office.
British chain Iceland has opened its first two Irish outlets in Dun Laoghaire and Ballyfermot, and when Checkout visited the former store, business certainly seemed to be brisk.
The product range, expectedly, is largely made up of frozen foods, with ready meals and desserts taking up much of the fridge space. However, the store also stocks mainline grocery items, including tinned foods, fresh meat, dairy products, bread, cereals, biscuits and confectionary, mostly Iceland own label with a nod towards leading brands.
An industry source told Checkout that non-frozen foods are stocked on the basis of special offers and promotions, Iceland being heavily into a low pricing policy. If the UK and Northern Ireland markets are anything to go by, Iceland’s customer profile will not be drawn from ABC1 groups, and its stores will not be used for weekly shopping, but for once a month stocking up of frozen foods.
Iceland is a major force in the UK grocery market with over 800 stores and in just a few years it has built up a chain of 22 stores in Northern Ireland. Despite this, profits for the group are expected to fall by up to 10% when half year results are announced this month – this being blamed on its Price Watch Promotion hitting margins in the short term and the temporary closure of 25 stores for refurbishment.
Iceland’s entry into the Irish market will be watched carefully by our own multiples, especially those which have existing outlets in Dun Laoghaire and Ballyfermot.
Although a Checkout reporter made many attempts to gain an interview with Iceland management to discuss company policy in Ireland she was unable to do so. After repeated phonecalls, a spokesperson at Iceland’s press office asked derisively: “How will this benefit us?”
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