Record sales at Centra convenience stores last year will allow the group to open 18 new stores across Ireland in 2022 and create at least 430 jobs.
entra reported revenue of $1.98B in 2021
Sales of Centra’s Irish Moo’d ice cream soared 52 units last year, while the ‘Freshly Made’ dishes jumped 40 units.
The group will invest €25 million over the next year in its 18 new stores and its 483 existing Irish stores, which already employ 11,716 people. There are also 11 new branches that opened in 2021.
Centra chief executive Ian Allen said the ongoing impact of the pandemic over the past year has prompted people to shop locally and cook more at home as restaurants remained closed for part of the year.
While strong growth could “wind up” in 2022, Allen said Centra is poised to beat forecasts of a 5 to 7 percent drop in grocery sales for the year.
“The market as a whole is expected to step down from that staggering 2021 high,” he said.
“We are ambitious to keep sales at a high level. The Centra brand will continue this growth momentum.
“There are undoubtedly challenges there, of course the current inflationary environment, but we expect Centra to outperform this market forecast.”
Grocery sales fell 7.2 percent in the 12 weeks ended April 17, according to research firm Kantar, with prices rising 4.7 percent over the period, the biggest increase in nearly 10 years.
The average household faces a €330 price increase on their annual grocery bill, and 23 per cent of households say they are now struggling to make ends meet.
Mr Allen said Centra would “shield” buyers from inflation as much as possible.
“We’ve been working hard to offer weekly promotions, thousands of weekly promotions. We have a very strong private label range, almost 1,000 private label lines, and we are working with our suppliers to alleviate some of this cost pressure.
“Our intention is certainly to protect our buyers from most of this inflation if we can.”
But he said the government must step in to do more for independent retailers, who are facing rising labor costs, rising energy prices, supply shortages, high insurance premiums and the added pressure of state systems like automatic retirement filing.
“When you add all of this together, the punitive impact on our sector is absolutely overwhelming. And it doesn’t feel like it’s been approached or looked at that way,” he said.
“The net margins earned here are pretty tight. If those [cost pressures] grow unchecked or left unaddressed, then we will end up with business failures. We will end up hitting employment.”
Centra’s results come just a month after Ireland’s second-largest grocer SuperValu posted sales of £3.237 billion for 2021.
SuperValu and Centra are owned by food giant Musgrave.