The competition in the Irish budget supermarket sector will only intensify in 2017, as Iceland Foods ploughs ahead with its plans to open at least three new outlets here this year.
Stores in Tallaght, Galway and an undisclosed location are on the way, bringing 75 job opportunities with them. This will bring the Wales-based retailer's Irish workforce to over 300, and its number of Irish stores to 15. The Tallaght store opens in April, with the ribbon cut on the Galway outlet – in a premises previously leased by Lidl – a month later.
Iceland's international director Ewan McMahon told the Sunday Independent that the UK's decision to leave the EU hasn't affected its plans as yet:
"We are continuing with our plans.
"Right now, the outcome on Brexit is unclear. We are obviously planning for it in the right way and will try to do the very best job for our customers in Ireland, Northern Ireland and everywhere else we trade."
McMahon, who took over the reins at the company last year following a quarter of a century at Tesco, claimed that Iceland's "aspiration" is to have 50 stores in the Republic but that completing property deals in Ireland "is not always as straightforward as you might think" due to the fact a lot of property is still tied up with NAMA. The company took control of its Irish operation from a franchisee in late 2013.
He also revealed that its Northern Irish operations received a boost due to the weakened sterling over Christmas, as shoppers from south of the border headed North to avail of savings.
In terms of how the retailer itself is dealing with big currency changes, McMahon said Iceland has been doing most of its produce deals in advance:
"We are looking for opportunities and what we can buy in Europe and supply within Europe, which would be better than buying in Europe and bring back to the UK before re-exporting it."