Belfast Telegraph

Tesco's £6bn boost to Northern Ireland economy over past two decades

By Margaret Canning

Supermarket giant Tesco has said it has contributed £5.7bn to the Northern Ireland economy since it set up in the province 20 years ago.

The company, which is marking 20 years in Northern Ireland, today said it had generated £1.5bn in wages during its two decades here and had made capital investments of £650m, building new stores and upgrading existing properties.

Tesco arrived in Northern Ireland in 1996 when it bought over 34 Stewarts and Crazy Prices supermarkets. At the time the stores were owned by Associated British Foods (ABF).

A Stewarts supermarket in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, was the first to be converted into Tesco.

It has since built a further 20 stores from scratch though expansion plans UK-wide have slowed down.

According to the latest figures on industry share from Kantar Worldpanel, Tesco is Northern Ireland's most popular supermarket, with a market share of 34.8%.

Tesco said it had commissioned an economic impact report into its operations in Northern Ireland, which also revealed that it has bought £5.5bn in food and drink from Northern Ireland suppliers and farmers over its 20 years here.

The company has 9,600 employees - making it the second-largest private sector employer here.

The firm said it had made a direct contribution of £3bn through wages and capital investment - with a further £2.7bn in indirect spending.

That indirect expenditure relates to the impact of its spending on Northern Ireland suppliers, along with the further spending generated by Tesco staff and suppliers in the economy.

In addition, the company said it works with 90 suppliers and 6,000 farmers in Northern Ireland, which produce 1,200 homegrown product lines in Tesco stores in the province.

Brendan Guidera, store director for Tesco Northern Ireland, said: "As the first grocery retailer to arrive in Northern Ireland after the Troubles, we could never have predicted how important a region it would be for the business.

"Northern Ireland has been the test bed for many Tesco initiatives - including setting up the business' first regional buying team. We strongly believe that the unique regional food and drink focus created by Tesco in this province informs the positive findings in this report.

"Listening to our customers' needs back in 1996, we have always tried to help make shopping better, putting the customer at the heart of everything we do, and continuing to grow our local product portfolio, which has resulted in an ever-growing footfall to store. Consequently, there has been the need for more stores, more staff and more investment - which ultimately has led us to the very significant added value figure estimated in this report."

Two years ago Tesco announced cost-cutting and store closures across the UK, closing a Tesco Express Ballymena and stores on the Cregagh Road and at Connswater in east Belfast.

It also cancelled new stores planned for Armagh and Carryduff.

But its turnaround has paid off, with Tesco announcing its third quarter of like for like sales growth last month.

Tesco was followed in Northern Ireland by Sainsbury's in December 1996, and Asda in 2005.

Belfast Telegraph

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