'We have to work harder and smarter': Cork retailers feeling pressure of staffing and costs

Speaking to The Echo, Mr Ryan said his businesses were under pressure from increased costs and difficulties getting and retaining staff
'We have to work harder and smarter': Cork retailers feeling pressure of staffing and costs

Liam Ryan, owner, Ryan's SuperValu, Glanmire.

STAFFING, prices, power costs, and supply of goods are all issues for supermarket retailers, according to a Cork businessman.

Ryan’s SuperValu Group, run by Liam Ryan, operates SuperValu stores in Togher, Glanmire, and Grange in Cork and Kilmallock in Limerick, and a Centra store in Aherla, Cork.

Speaking to The Echo, Mr Ryan said his businesses were under pressure from increased costs and difficulties getting and retaining staff.

“It is tough to get suitably mature staff. Covid has had a major effect. Senior management — people who lock up at night, open in the morning — we can’t get people to do those jobs.

“We have people at the moment but we think we will be under huge pressure the first week of September.”

Mr Ryan said he was not the only person experiencing these difficulties.

“We have a huge issue in staffing. If you walk the streets of Cork, every employer has an issue, whether you are in retail or hospitality — anything that requires seven days and late nights have trouble retaining staff. Everyone wants to work reduced hours.”

Mr Ryan said he has been speaking to politicians about seeking supermarket staff from overseas: “I’ve spoken to Minister [Michael] McGrath to see if we can get work permits for non-nationals. That’s a very slow process.

In terms of supply, Mr Ryan said it was not as bad as Covid times and, while they may not always have the specific brand people want, they will have the product people need.

“We have a vast range of products in store. Supply difficulties are nothing major.

“We get our grain from Canada but the price is increasing. Every week prices are going up and we are absorbing some of that price shortfall. We are very conscious of the difficulties and no one wants to be increasing prices.”

Liam Ryan, owner of Ryan’s SuperValu in Glanmire, says it is difficult to recruit suitably mature staff and senior management.	Picture: Denis Minihane
Liam Ryan, owner of Ryan’s SuperValu in Glanmire, says it is difficult to recruit suitably mature staff and senior management. Picture: Denis Minihane

Mr Ryan said prices were under constant surveillance: “Prices are increasing because of labour costs, fuel, raw materials, and the Ukraine war. Ukraine was the breadbasket of Europe; it had a lot of wheat and sunflower.”

Mr Ryan said shopping habits have changed back, with people buying day to day again rather than one big weekly shop and he said his businesses were responding to the demand.

COST OF POWER

Mr Ryan said another huge issue for businesses was the cost of power, which has increased threefold for the SuperValu group.

“We were paying 13c per kilowatt of power. We have now settled for the next 15 months at 38c per unit. That has a considerable effect on the bottom line.”

Outlining the perfect storm in relation to increased expenditure, Mr Ryan said: “The cost of all packaging has greatly increased due to transport and manufacturing costs. There is an upward cost on wages and inflation pressures on staff — they need extra money.

“There is considerable pressure on all small and medium businesses at the moment.”

The SuperValu group has its own manufacturing facility for its products. It has also begun wrapping all its bread since the Covid pandemic, as well as packaging counter products from the deli and meat, etc.

“We are absorbing the cost, eating into profits. We have had to make cutbacks and change things, and work harder and smarter and things like that, but we had to take a certain amount of the hit.”

Meanwhile, a Lidl spokesperson said it was working closely with suppliers to ensure competitive prices continue at its shops.

“At Lidl we are committed to offering our customers the best value in the market by providing quality produce at affordable prices.

“We have a robust supply chain in place and are not experiencing any major supply issues. Our teams continue to work closely with all our suppliers on an ongoing basis to ensure our customers can avail of our quality products at the lowest market prices.”

Aldi also said it was monitoring and analysing the ongoing situation.

Aldi group managing director Niall O’Connor said: “Our buying teams are working very closely with our suppliers to ensure there is minimal disruption to our supply chain so that our customers across the country have access to all the food and provisions they need.

“We will continue to monitor and analyse the situation and possible effects on our supply chains.”

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