Northern Ireland Retailer of the Year in talks to make Milestone Morrisons move

Northern Ireland Retailer of the Year in talks to make Milestone Morrisons move
Tom McAvoy (right) owner of Milestone Rathfriland, pictured with Noel Hadden general manager at Milestone Rathfriland with some of their 2023 Neighbourhood Retailer Awards.

One of Northern Ireland’s most innovative and forward-thinking independent retailers has confirmed he is in talks with one of the ‘big four’ supermarkets about a possible move to their brand.

Tom McAvoy – 2023’s Northern Ireland Retailer of the Year – has been in talks with Morrisons about a potential partnership, which would result in the launch of the supermarket’s first store in Northern Ireland.

Tom owns the award-winning 16,000 sq ft Nisaextra store in Rathfriland, and last year made history when his Milestone store won the coveted NI Retailer of the Year award for the fourth time.

While still contracted with Nisa, Tom has been bringing in Morrisons stock to his store for three to four years, using third parties including HMT Shipping and Magill Transport to get the ambient and frozen products to his County Down store. He told NR the food items have been well received by his customers.

“There is a good difference in price. The difference in price definitely pays for the paperwork and transport. It still leaves us with better margins and better offering,” said Tom, adding that he is keen to make the move to supplying their fresh food.

Widely recognised as a grocery innovator and one of the first to adapt new and exciting initiatives and developments in retail, Tom McAvoy’s store is widely looked upon as the standard for other retailers to aspire to, and has safely secured its spot as a destination store.

“Moving to Morrisons would certainly give us a unique position in NI retail,” said Tom.

“We looked at the market three to four years ago, independent retailers have very limited scope here. After speaking to [food retail guru] Scott Annan, he advised us to consider Morrisons.”

However, he stressed that while talks were ongoing and things are “moving in the right direction”, there were many outside elements to consider.

“We are pursuing it and we would like to get it across the line, but we are relying on EU-UK politics to develop.

“Personally, I think the UK is going to do something more like the Common Market, so if that happens the protocol will melt away and if that happens, the whole thing would definitely be a goer. If it doesn’t it’s still possible, but a lot of work.”