Dunnes Stores wins High Court action against Mr Price, where definition of groceries is ‘central issue’
“What does the word ‘groceries’ actually mean?", judge asked, describing this question as the central issue in the case
20 July 2022
Dunnes Store has emerged triumphant from a High Court action against discount chain Mr Price, over the issue of selling ‘groceries’, as outlined in its lease agreement at the Barrow Valley Retail Park on the Carlow/Laois border.
Dunnes is the anchor tenant in its 65,000 square foot premises. The supermarked claimed that contained within the deal for it to become Barrow Valley’s anchor tenant, was an exclusivity clause in the lease agreements with the holders of other units in the park, which would prevent them from operating in competition with the supermarket chain.
Mr Justice Mark Sanfey said the term “groceries”, as contained in a lease agreement at the centre of the dispute with the operator of a Mr Price store, “extends beyond food or food products”.
The judge also held that the term “groceries” includes “non-durable consumable household items which are purchased frequently”.
Other items which he deemed to be groceries include healthcare products, household and cleaning products; pet care and pet food; bathroom toiletries; hair care products; detergents; washing powder; cleaning products; shampoos; toothbrushes; toothpaste; kitchen towels and toilet rolls.
The defendents denied the claims and rejected the categorisation of groceries advanced by Dunnes, the Irish Independent reports.
They claimed Dunnes’ definition of groceries was “self-serving, arbitrary and over-broad”, constituting a casual expansion of the use of the term groceries to encompass many product types sold in a supermarket which go beyond the meaning of the word groceries as defined in the Dunnes lease.
They also claimed that the terms grocery and food are commonly understood to be separate and distinct categories from confectionery, toiletries, cosmetic, perfumes and household accessories.
The defendants claimed that overall purpose of the clause of lease was intended to operate to prohibit a competing supermarket to operate alongside the Dunnes Stores premises.
Finding in Dunnes’ favour, Mr Justice Mark Sanfey said that if Mr Price removes all food products and groceries in compliance with his categorisation it will be in the court’s view in compliance with the restrictive covenant.
This would remove the threat of competition in the retail park, which the restrictive clause in the lease was intended to address, he said.
The judge added that he was sure that the parties could come to a business-like arrangement over any items where there is a dispute, rather than resort to further legal action.
The matter is due to return before the court at a later date when final orders will be made in the action.