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Irish retailer Superquinn has announced that it is rolling out a new premium private label line of products using the name “SQ,” for “superior quality.” The brand will be used for a range of fresh products – from meat and seafood to bakery and produce – that the company has identified as being a premium level.

Company chairman Simon Burke has been quoted in the media as saying that he believes that the SQ brand could eventually account for one percent of all Superquinn’s sales, or roughly the equivalent of $8 million (US) a year.

However, as Superquinn launches this new initiative, there are rumblings in the Irish media that the company is losing ground despite – or perhaps because of – the sale of the company by founder Feargal Quinn to Select Retail Holdings more than two years ago.

A column by Daire O’Brien in this morning’s The Independent says, in part:

“The company's announcement during the week that it was to introduce yet another premium range of own-label goodies was uninspiring to say the least but executive chairman Simon Burke's statement, that Irish people shouldn't need Marks and Spencer if Superquinn was doing its job, was honest and accurate.

“Superquinn has been going downhill since before the 2004 takeover and, despite Feargal Quinn's profile still being on the company's website, his uncanny knack of making the middle orders feel special in the aisles has been sadly missed.

“With every convenience store in the country having a posh food section, Superquinn's clothes have long since been stolen.

“People don't go to Superquinn for tinned goods and vac-packed meat.

“They go to have their tastebuds stretched and developed through product innovation.”

KC's View:
Harsh words.

What the folks at Superquinn are learning is that while it is entirely fair to describe the company as “a legendary Irish retailer,” the fact is that “legendary” is a word that always applies to the past. If you want to be legendary today, you have to earn it. And then again tomorrow. And the day after that.

And, they have to do it within the context of heightened competition and a fresh set of market realities.

However, I love the final lines of the O’Brien column…perhaps because they echo what I said this morning in my MNB Radio commentary:

“People don't go to Superquinn for tinned goods and vac-packed meat …They go to have their tastebuds stretched and developed through product innovation”.

Here endeth the lesson, as Jimmy Malone, the famous Irish cop in Chicago, once said.