Superquinn to close. It is no more! The wailing, the tears, the outcry... it is almost as big a deal as the announcement of Westlife's breakup in 2011. For those of you from outside of Ireland, I am sure you are baffled by the above. Let me explain.
What is this thing you speak of?
Superquinn is a supermarket. But it is (or certainly was) much more than a supermarket. It was a way of life - at least for the Middle Class of Ireland. It was a place where you could make your own pizzas and get American style coleslaw in the 70s, where well-trained employees would dole out samples of fancy French cheeses in the 80s, where housewives could feel like Hyacinth Bucket as Fergal Quinn himself (the former owner) would stand out front of the supermarkets giving out carnations on Mother's Day and where you first tasted Beaujolais Nouveau at the French Wine Sale. It was 'SQ - The Experience.'
And then life as we know it happened. The recession, property slumps, rising food prices, globalisation etc. Fergal Quinn sold it, Tesco and the German Giants (Aldi and Lidl) arrived in Ireland and Own Brand became the norm. And suddenly the inflated, fancy life that Superquinn advertised just didn't fit right. It has struggled against the odds, but now the Musgrave Group has announced that it will be discounting the store and merging it with SuperValu. To do exactly what it says on the tin.
If I am truthful with you, I cannot claim to have partaken in SQ - The Experience. Yes, I did sample the famous succulent SQ sausages and gooey doughnuts when visiting friends in Dublin. But the reality was, there was no Superquinn in Donegal (the place I have called home for the last 35 years).
So why is it relevant to me?
Well while it doesn't impact me directly, it did get me thinking about supermarkets in general and where we are all going.
1) Prices are Increasing
I've written about it before, but it's true. Food poverty is a reality for many.
For the rest, it is less meat, more own brand and more innovative solutions. While there are always high end stores selling luxury brands, their audience is waning. There will still be a market for the occasional delicacy, but the days of full grocery shops in fancy food shops are numbered.
2) Buy Local is Key
Despite higher prices, consumers are more concerned than ever at supporting their local economy.
An interesting Irish Times article about the death of SuperQuinn talks about Aldi and Lidl promoting Buy Irish and also the hope that SuperValu will continue its current practice of funding the local economy:
According to its [SuperValu's] own analysis, every €1 spent in one of its stores generates 45c for the local economy. Just 15c is returned to the local economy from each €1 spent with a multinational.
This trend is not just in Ireland. If you Google the words "Buy Local", results will comes from the UK, Northern Ireland, Europe etc. The Farmer's Market is here to stay.
3) Less Human Interaction
With rising food prices, if supermarkets have any chance at keeping some portion of their current profits, costs are going to have to reduce. An obvious cost reduction is in the area of staff. We've already seen this with the proliferation of 'unexpected item in the bagging area' self-service counters. But this situation is only set to continue. Asda are trialling the Rapid Scan which promises to scan 100 items in one minute.
I guess there is no need for people so.
4) It's Time to Go Online
Whether you like it or not, online is where we are headed. I certainly love buying local, discussing the best cuts with my local butcher and feeling the ripeness of fruits in the greengrocer, but online has so many advantages that I just can't help but get on board with.
-Meal planning possibilities
It seems like a no brainer to me. If you are daunted by the prospect of online shopping, why not check out my previous blog post where I give my tips on how to do it right or use Sian's Plan to help you get organised.
I am always sad when an Irish institution moves on, but it it only serves to highlight that supermarket life is changing. Don't get left behind crying about spilt milk.