Feargal Quinn 1936 – 2019
Feargal Quinn, who as founder of the groundbreaking Superquinn supermarket chain made a lasting impact on Ireland's grocery trade over more than five decades, has passed away at the age of 82.
25 April 2019
Feargal Quinn, former Senator, champion of independent business and founder of the legendary Superquinn supermarket chain, has died aged 82. In a statement, Quinn’s family confirmed that the Dublin native had passed away peacefully at his home in Howth.
“First and foremost Feargal was a loving and caring husband, father, grandfather, and brother,” the statement said. “To everyone else who knew him, he was an ebullient businessman, entrepreneur, innovator and former Senator.”
Feargal Quinn founded Superquinn in 1960 when he opened his first store in Dundalk, Co. Louth. After observing sweeping changes taking place in the US grocery industry during the 1970s, Quinn applied these changes to his own business. These changes would cause a seismic shift in the way consumers engage with retail brands that is still felt today.
Superquinn introduced previously unseen levels of innovation, customer service and in-store experience to Ireland, including the first loyalty programme SuperClub, self-scanning and more.
Superquinn was also the first Irish retailer to offer an online shopping service, Superquinn4Food, which was introduced in October 2000.
In 2005, the Superquinn chain was sold to a consortium, Select Retail Holdings, which would eventually sell the brand on to Musgrave Retail Partners in 2011. All remaining stores in the chain were subsequently rebranded as SuperValu, but the legacy of Superquinn lives on, proving that Feargal Quinn’s forward-thinking decades before would change the industry in Ireland forever.
During his career, Quinn served as Senator for the National University of Ireland constituency from 1993 to 2016, and also held a number of other positions including chairman of An Post, board of directors of CIES – the Food Business Forum, as well as the American-based Food Marketing Institute.
Quinn was the author of Crowning the Customer in 1990, which has been translated into many languages, as well as Mind Your Own Business in 2013. He also published a memoir in 2016. He was the recipient of the ShelfLife Convenience Champion Award in 2013.
In a 2009 interview with ShelfLife, Quinn outlined his philosophy of customer service. “I would say the biggest challenge over the years was making sure we were responding to customers’ changing needs,” he said. “I say changing needs because what customers wanted in 1960 was not what they wanted in 1970; it was a very subtle change. By the 1980s it was changing again, and again in the 1990s.
“I think to be willing to respond even to one customer, to say, ‘I don’t want to lose that customer’ – even if their needs seem to be in the minority – and to approach it on that basis, was the only way to succeed,” he said.
In a statement, Chris Martin, CEO Musgrave Group called Feargal Quinn a visionary in Irish food and a retail pioneer.
“We are saddened to hear of the passing of Feargal Quinn,” Martin said. “Beyond the world of retail, Feargal made a significant and lasting contribution to Irish society, and to political life as a member of Seanad Eireann. He was a leader who will be deeply missed.
“Feargal was also a good friend to Musgrave and on behalf of everyone here, I would like to share our condolences with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.”
Quinn is survived by his wife Denise Quinn, their five children and 19 grandchildren.
All at ShelfLife offer their condolences to the Quinn family, and salute the legacy of a true retail pioneer.