Dunnes Stores won a legal dispute against a discount store in an action in which a High Court judge was asked to define which products should be classified as groceries.
In his ruling, Judge Mark Sanfey said the term “groceries” contained in a lease at the center of a dispute between Dunnes Stores and store operator Mr Price “extends beyond food or food products” .
The judge also held that the term “groceries” includes “non-durable consumable household items that are frequently purchased.”
Other items the judge considers edible include health care products, household and cleaning products; pet care and pet food; Toiletries; hair care products, detergents; soap powder; Cleaning products; shampoos; toothbrushes; toothpaste; kitchen towels and toilet paper rolls.
The case concerned the opening of a Mr Price store in the Barrow Valley Retail Park on the Carlow-Laois border, where Dunnes is the main tenant in his 65,000-square-foot facility.
Dunnes claimed that as part of the deal to become the main tenant, an exclusivity clause was included in the leases with the owners of other units in the park to prevent them from competing with the supermarket chain.
Following the opening of the Mr Price store in 2020, Dunnes and the owners of the retail park, Camgill Property A Sé Ltd, brought action against Dafora Unlimited Company and Corajio Unlimited Trading as “Mr Price Branded Bargains”.
Dunnes claimed that, in breach of the terms of his lease, the operators, Mr. Price, had been selling items from his outlet, namely groceries, in the retail park that he had no right to sell.
Represented by Martin Hayden SC, he had asked for a permanent injunction to prevent a Mr Price store from selling certain items. The restrictive clause contained in the lease, Dunnes asserted, prevented any other tenant in the park from operating as a supermarket, hypermarket, grocery store, discount food store, frozen food establishment, mini food market, convenience store. or any similar premises for the sale of any food, food products or groceries.
The defendants denied the claims and rejected Dunnes’ proposed food categorization.
In his ruling in favor of Dunnes, Judge Sanfey said that the word “groceries” is one that everyone is familiar with.
He said that most people would be comfortable using the word and, if asked, would readily recognize its familiarity and consider that they understand its meaning.
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He said that if Mr. Price removes all food and grocery products in accordance with his categorization, it will be in the opinion of the court in accordance with the restrictive agreement.
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 confident that the parties could reach a commercial agreement on any point where there is a dispute, rather than resort to further legal action.
The matter will return to court at a later date when final orders in the action are issued.