In a converted garage in the urban area of Beggar’s Bush in Dublin is the food store Lotts and Co. On the floor are lengths of shelves filled with groceries. Italian specialties are mixed with French delicacies, colorful cereal packages imported from the USA and Irish potato chips. There is also Swedish pearl sugar, crispbread and cheese bows. “These really confuse the Irish, I’m constantly being asked what to do with them,” says Rory English, CEO of Lotts and Co, pointing to a row of bags with various dips from the Estrella brand.Rory English has worked at Lotts and Co since it was started in 2015. Photo: Matilda WestermarkHe moves on to the store’s coffee bar, located just to the left of the entrance. While one of the store’s two baristas pours creamy skimmed milk into Rory English’s reusable coffee mug, he fetches paper towels from the staff room himself. “I was going to take advantage of the sunshine and sit on the bench outside, but it’s a little wet from the morning rain,” he says and walks towards the exit with the coffee mug in one hand, the paper in the other. On the way he passes shelves with Ballerina biscuits, powder sauce from Blå Band and Marabou chocolate. Lotts and Co’s solid range of Swedish food products got its start in an Erasmus exchange. “When I was young, I traveled quite a bit in Finland and was captivated by Scandinavia. When I studied a few years later, I was offered an exchange to Lund. I had one of the funnest years of my life and go back to Sweden as often as I can,” says Rory English.Here, a packet of Ballerina Biscuits costs just over SEK 40, more than twice as expensive as in Sweden. Photo: Matilda WestermarkThe past decade has seen development in the Beggar’s Bush area at a furious pace. What used to be a quiet residential area is now a young and vibrant district, not least thanks to Google’s European headquarters being located in the district. Even for Lotts and Co, a lot has changed since the store in Beggar’s Bush opened in 2015. The chain now has three locations in Dublin and a separate warehouse has been established to accommodate all goods. Rory English has been employed since the start, initially working as a store manager. Eight years later, he is the company’s CEO, with responsibility for all stores, brand development and product range. “We want to be at the forefront of food trends and import many products from other countries. When I realized that it was not possible to find Swedish products anywhere in Dublin, I found a gap in the market.”The shop in Beggar’s Bush was the first to be started under the name Lotts and Co. Today there are two more stores in the Irish capital. Photo: Matilda Westermark Importing from Sweden turned out to be easier said than done. After contacting several different Swedish authorities, he was still left empty-handed. “They thought it was funny that I wanted to sell Swedish goods, but no one could recommend a supplier. They did not want to be accused of being biased or breaking the competition law. Extremely frustrating”, says Rory English and continues: “Here in Ireland I had received the same official answer, but then I had received a number a little to the side. The same in Italy and France. But I had forgotten that it doesn’t work that way in Sweden.”The path to a Swedish supplier instead went through Instagram.”I wrote to a Swedish woman who runs a small candy company that we would like to buy from her range. She had contacts that could help me get more products in. If that hadn’t happened, I might still have been sent in circles between the authorities.”There is no Irish equivalent to pearl sugar, which makes the product a favorite among customers. Photo: Matilda Westermark Imported food products tend to skyrocket in price, so also at Lotts and Co. A bag of cheese balls costs 3.75 euros, approximately SEK 43. In Sweden, the price is around SEK 30. A Maraboukaka costs 4.45 euros – roughly 50 kroner – basically double the price compared to here in Sweden.”We try to keep the prices down and not charge more than we have to in order to make ends meet. But the prices are nothing that has affected our sales, we know that our customers will buy what they are hungry for.”A small child comes running out of the store with an ice cream in his hand. Close behind comes the mother, also with an ice cream stick in her hand. Rory English smiles and waves to the customers, wishing them a continued good day.
Lotts and Co
The first store was opened in 2015 in Beggar’s Bush, Dublin. Behind the concept are John Byrne and brothers Barry and Paul McNerney, with the vision of creating a grocery store with a modern range, knowledgeable staff and a family feel. Today there are three Lotts and Co stores in Dublin . The stores’ assortment consists of both locally produced goods and imported products from different parts of the world. “See you next week,” shouts the mother and waves back. Despite the pandemic years, Lott’s and Co has maintained a steady stream of customers. “Many people do their big weekly shopping in cheaper stores, but then they come here and buy that little extra. Our number of customers is the same as before the pandemic, that is the most important thing for us,” says Rory English. In Sweden, the price of food has risen by over 20 percent in the past year. It is the biggest increase since the early 1950s. Inflation is also felt in Ireland, where food prices have risen by roughly 16 percent in one year.One of the big sellers in Lotts and Co’s Swedish range is cheese balls. Cheese bows don’t sell as well, according to Rory English, the taste of the two cheese snacks is completely different. How are your imports affected by the price increase in Sweden?
“We order new goods every twelve weeks and so far we have not noticed it. But it will soon be time for a new order, so then we might get a price shock.”The majority of the customers who shop in the Swedish range are Swedes who have moved in. But a handful of Irish customers have also found favorites among the selection. The best sellers are cheese balls, Swedish chocolate – especially Marabou’s Daim-flavored milk chocolate – and pearl sugar, because there is no equivalent product in Irish cuisine.”But especially the cheese balls sell well and I understand why. They are addictive,” says Rory English.You have cheese arches too. Do they sell as well?
“No, but they’re not as good either.”