Lidl boss confirms supply lines from mainland Europe now by-passing Britain

Lidl's supermarket on the Andersontown Road. The retailer will open its 41st store in the north on the Crumlin Road in February.
Ryan McAleer

THE head of Lidl on the island of Ireland has confirmed its supply lines from mainland Europe into the north now bypass Britain.

JP Scally said the German supermarket chain had responded to Brexit by re-routing around the UK landbridge where possible.

“We do still have goods coming in from Britain to both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland through the normal routes,” said the chief executive.

“But anything that’s coming from Europe, we have re-routed around Britain to avoid the landbridge. So the majority of that will be coming in from France.”

Speaking one month after the end of the Brexit transition phase, Mr Scally said the company had spent three years working with its suppliers to ensure supply lines would continue.

He said Lidl had invested in software, set up infrastructure and hired a broker firm to handle imports and exports.

But perhaps key for Lidl has been its massive distribution centre in Nutts Corner.

“It means we are bringing into the region full loads of product from our suppliers directly, as opposed to bringing in mixed pallets of goods,” said Mr Scally.

“But we do have an awful lot of local suppliers, which has been a huge help.”

Lidl yesterday announced sales of £278m in Northern Ireland for the 2019/20 financial year. The chief executive said the retailer had sourced more than £300m of produce in the region during that period.

“That means we’re actually buying more within the region than we’re selling. We’re a net exporter of goods from Northern Ireland, which is something we’re particularly proud of.”

Lidl’s preparations for Brexit also saw it incorporate a new limited company in Northern Ireland.

“We thought it was more prudent to have a limited company set up in Northern Ireland. We’ve done likewise in GB as well,” said the supermarket boss.

“It was more straightforward to ensure it wasn’t just a branch of a German organization, so therefore there were no complications around EU law.”

Supermarkets in the north are currently enjoying a three-month grace period for the introduction of new checks on most goods across the Irish Sea border.

But unlike some other major retailers, Mr Scally said Lidl is not anticipating any major disruption when that grace period is over.

“The grace period has helped, but we’re not overly concerned. What’s important is to have health certificates in place for products that need them and veterinary inspections. We have infrastructure set up to ensure that can be achieved.”

He said in the event Lidl struggles to import a certain product from Britain, it could turn to its international network of suppliers.

“We have no plans in place for that at the moment,” he added.

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