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Asda merger could drive up prices

THERE are fears for jobs in Enniskillen if a planned super merger between Asda and Sainsbury’s goes ahead, while there are also concerns cash-strapped concerns consumers could be hit in the pocket too.
A total of 370 people work at Asda in Enniskillen, while just under 40 work at Argos, which is owned by Sainsbury’s, in the town. While the bosses of both supermarket giants, who announced the deal at the beginning of the week, have assured the public there will no store closures, industry experts believe there will inevitably be job losses
and that workers could find their benefits, such as paid breaks or bonuses, reduced.
There are also concerns about price hikes at Asda, a store which attracts thousands to Fermanagh as a result of its bargain deals. Sainsbury’s is regarded in retail terms as a more upmarket multiple brand, typically located in more affluent areas and with a greater concentration of outlets in the south of the UK. Asda is recognised as appealing to more price-conscious shoppers and in UK terms has a greater presence in the north of England and Scotland.
Consumer experts warn that consolidation effectively means less competition and less choice for shoppers and
the worry is that a merger of the two would see prices in a new super-group balancing out at a level somewhere between Asda and Sainsbury’s existing prices.
On the jobs issue, Michaela Lafferty, area organiser for union USDAW, who work closely with Sainsbury’s, Asda and Argos, said they were “very, very shocked at the merger.”
“There was never any hint any of this was going to happen,” said Ms Lafferty. “Our primary concern is for the safe guarding of jobs, the retention of incomes and terms and conditions. On that basis, from the announcement on Monday morning, we have written to Asda and the main players and asked them for immediate meetings to ensure that going forward jobs are protected.”
One area where the merger could see future job losses is in the area of automation, which Ms Lafferty said was already a concern.
“We do see a reduction in jobs and a reduction in human contact within the retail environment with the rise of automation anyway,” she said.
“We would be against the introduction of hybrid checkouts or self-service, but sometimes you just can’t stop progress. It does come at a price.
“If this merger is allowed it will create a monster grocer where they will be able to get their hands on high levels of automation and technology that they believe will make it easier for workers and customers, but the price is there will be less staff.”
With regard to possible increase in prices, despite the fact the combined might of the supermarket chains bringing increased buying power, many industry experts believe the deal might have the opposite effect and will drive up prices. If that happens, it could have a significant impact not only on local household budgets, but on the
ability of Asda to attract people to the town.
“A Tesco/Sainsbury’s-Asda duopoly would have unrivalled power to dominate, dictating choice and prices for consumers,” said Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey who added suppliers may
also be hit in the pocket.


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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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