Avoca’s newest food store in Ballsbridge, one of Dublin’s most affluent suburbs, has been carefully designed to meet the needs of an increasingly quixotic consumer. Someone who seeks out and is willing to pay premium prices for food, but who also happily rummages around the middle aisles of the discount stores in search of products they didn’t realise they needed.
This new Avoca – just 6 weeks old – is the retailing and epicurean group’s 13th outlet. It’s the ultimate concept store aiming to provide a multitude of food solutions through different “stations” and also meeting a top up grocery shopping need.
The layout and atmosphere of this relatively small 7,000sq ft space – which includes a huge silver mosaic tile-covered pizza oven at its centre – is very similar to the upmarket deli-meets-convenience store formats of New York’s Citarella, Dean & Deluca and the newer Le District; gourmet markets which feature culinary-specific zones and have spearheaded new ways of shopping, eating, and playing, all in one place.
All of this against the backdrop of rapidly changing shopping habits. This is borne out by the latest figures from market analysts Kantar which show that the more mainstream Dunnes Stores – which is also embracing the concept store format in its remodeled locations – is the firm market leader in terms of share in Ireland.
Dunnes now commands 23% of the fiercely competitive Irish market and has been edging away from competitors for the last few reporting periods, largely due to its strategy to move upmarket and aggressively pursue what David McWilliams describes rather brilliantly in a recent article as the Cheese-Eating Unsqueezed Middle“.
Discounters have been growing strongly too, with Aldi and Lidl both accounting for 11% of the market in Ireland. Any lingering consumer mistrust in the offer has long gone and the newer format stores are pleasant places to shop. Lidl’s Kick Start programme has been a welcome – albeit short-term – initiative to bring smaller artisan suppliers into store.
With Fallon & Byrne planning to open a flagship food hall running to 10,000sq ft in Dundrum Shopping Centre, and the smaller Donnybrook Fair also in expansionary mode, the “artisanisation” of Irish retail shows no signs of abating.