Retailer Jerome Griffin tells Gillian Hamill how his busy rural store in Tullig Lower, Killorgan, Co Kerry, has created a buzz in the local vicinity
May 11 2012
Store owner Jerome Griffin believes friendly customer service is essential and knows many of his customers by name
XL Hannah Mary's Country Store,
Owner: Jerome Griffin
Size: 1,000 sq ft
Staff: Five; two full-time, three part-time
“What’s for you, won’t pass you by” has long been a popular phrase on these shores, and it’s arguably never more true than when it applies to a bona fide store opportunity.
This was certainly the case for Jerome Griffin, who first started his career in retail at the early age of 17, by working part-time in Killorglin town. A local from the area, he had long seen the potential of Hannah Mary’s bustling rural store, which formed a true community hub for nearby residents.
He first approached the previous owner, the aforementioned well-known local, Hannah Mary, back in 2002 when he was leaving his post as manager of the Eurospar supermarket in Killorglin, which he had held for three and a half years. He wanted to know if Hannah Mary would be willing to lease her store out to him, yet at that time, she wasn’t in a position to retire.
Fulfilling a long-term goal
Not to be deterred from his long-term goal of running his own store though, Griffin decided to build up his skills base so that he would be in a better position to operate the shop when the time was right to do so.
He subsequently gained a position as a depot manager in the oil industry. As he explains: “When I worked in the oil business, I got more experience in dealing with the back office work and accounts, so I got that under my belt in order to be able to have a grasp on accounting for when I took over the shop.”
XL Hannah Mary’s Country Store has a very strong value perception, with approximately 16 special offer promotions running in each cycle
When Hannah Mary later decided to retire in 2010, it was naturally all systems go for the enthusiastic retailer. “I saw the opportunity with this shop, I had always seen it and I knew the potential of it here, so as soon as I heard that Hannah Mary was retiring, I jumped at the opportunity.”
It proved an easy decision for the retailer to keep the name of the shop’s popular former owner over the door. As he explains: “I kept the name because it’s the local shop and it would have always been known as Hannah Mary’s, so I held on to the name and I just made it Hannah Mary’s Country Store.” Many decisions weren’t as easily made as this sage one however, and Griffin explains that he and the BWG team dedicated several months to finalising the best design for the store’s layout.
“I had been working on the shop since June 2010, creating different shop layouts and designs,” explains Griffin. Due to “the whole front of the shop needing a complete facelift,” new signage was also added to the shop front and roadway, and the front yard gained new tarmac. To improve the store’s overall appearance even further, the team landscaped the grounds outside, put in new lawns and succeeded in upgrading the store’s exterior to “a different standard.”
A worthwhile transformation
Naturally, it was decided that the interior would have to match the store’s newly-improved ‘kerb appeal’ which boasts 15 parking spaces, and Griffin lost no time in ensuring this would be the case. “The internal layout I completely revamped and updated with the new look of the XL symbol,” says the retailer.
The entire transformation took approximately three weeks to complete, by the time the new fit-out involving flooring, tiling, rearranged shelves and till systems was in place. Griffin notes that while the changes required a significant investment, he nevertheless received “great support from BWG through the XL group.”
Retailer Jerome Griffin carefully designed his store in conjunction with the BWG team in order to make the best use of the space available
Choosing a local workforce
Work was ongoing throughout September and the doors were first opened on 1 October 2010. In the lead-up to the first day of trading, Griffin had been busy assembling an experienced team of staff to man the store. Two staff members approached him when they learnt he was taking over the store, and as Griffin had previously “trained them into the retail industry,” he interviewed them and promptly decided to offer them the roles.
With a further three positions to fill, Griffin says that he received many CVs and this presented quite a task in terms of sorting through them all. Especially considering that the applicants came from a wide geographic area and Griffin was eager “to hire local people that would know the area and know customers coming in.”
As well as benefiting from “great local support throughout the winter months,” the store’s location in Tullig Lower, Killorglin, also benefits from a high level of passing trade during the summer months. This is the case as the XL is situated on the main route to the beach and local golf course and many tourists have holiday homes in the nearby area of Cromane.
Subsequently the team recently introduced an ice cream cone machine that Griffin says has “really taken off.” In general however, he notes that throughout the shop “there would be no department that would be lacking. If there is we get in there and investigate if it is the products that are wrong, or is it actually the way they’re merchandised and if it is, then we sort it out.”
A ‘hands-on’ approach
This sort of pro-active approach seems to be characteristic of Griffin’s style of working, because he is keen to always be very “hands on” within the shop and provide a good example to staff. “I would be very hands on within the shop myself in terms of stocking shelves, working at the till, working at the meat slicer, I do all of that myself as well as if I was just an employee,” he notes.
“We’re always looking at different ways to introduce new services within the store to keep things varied for our customers and to attract different customers,” adds Griffin. This includes ideas above and beyond the norm, such as selling 20 litre drums of home heating oil. “This is very handy due to the price of oil, and if people are holding bulk oil at the moment, there’s also a high chance of it being stolen,” says Griffin, explaining why the shop offers this convenient top-up option for local shoppers.
Another service that sets the store apart in customers’ eyes is the fact that it offers a home delivery service for both fuels and groceries. Unsurprisingly this has proved a hit, especially with elderly customers who normally have to rely on their children to deliver their shopping.
The XL store offers an enticing selection of bakery treats which is currently performing very well
At the centre of the community
The store also plays a part in the community by sponsoring the under 12s local Cromane football team and hosting various charity events. Last year the shop held a 15km charity cycle from the store which an impressive 87 cyclists participated in, followed by a BBQ. The money raised was donated equally between the Killorglin Hospice and the Cromane Community Centre. The retailer says he enjoys such events greatly because they give locals a chance to “get to know each other and catch up”. What’s more, the store has several local suppliers such as for bread, eggs, fruit and veg and meats, which exerts a positive knock-on effect on the local economy.
While Hannah Mary’s Country Store at 1,000sq ft, is a relatively small store, Griffin feels that it is nevertheless able to compete on value. “That was part of the reason why I joined the XL and the BWG group, because they have buying power and I can avail of that by being part of the XL symbol,” says Griffin, who notes that the shop’s own brand Family Value range is also currently performing well.
“There have been more promotions in recent times, and we’ve also certainly engaged in using the likes of the handout flyers, dropping them off from door to door…We could have in and around 15 or 16 promotions in one cycle running at a time, so if you come into the store, you’re going to see these promotions highlighted and within a small store, that creates a very clear value message.”
The flyers and ads on local radio station Radio Kerry are certainly working moreover as Griffin has discovered a number of customers are driving from various different towns to buy his offers such as a 15kg dog food selling for €13. On this subject, Griffin notes moreover: “The marketing here is definitely working because at the XL Store of the Year Awards last year and earlier this year, I picked up the award for the best local marketing campaign. It just proves that by marketing your store, the investment is going to gain a return.”
The store has also created a reputation for having a lively atmosphere by hosting a number of fun family days out. These include its official opening on Saturday 4 October 2010, when Radio Kerry recorded a live broadcast outside the store. This was preceded by €50 vouchers for the shop being given out daily on the Francis Jones 11am - 1pm show, with one voucher being upgraded to €200 on the actual day.
Events such as these have certainly helped to create a buzz around the store. This has not only contributed to it receiving marketing awards, but more importantly, appears to have created a shop where locals and those from further afield are consistently keen to return.