A fond farewell…
17 February 2010
Over the past month Shelflife has bid a fond farewell to Caroline Byrne. While Byrne was in the editor chair for the past 18 months, she always had her finger on the pulse for industry news and happenings. During her tenure she was instrumental in developing the very successful website, www.shelflife.ie and ensuring that the magazine remained the main source of retail trade news in the country. Everyone at ShelfLife wishes her the very best in her future endeavours.
As the new editor, I’m no stranger to the trade, having previously spent four years working on the title as staff journalist, assistant editor and deputy editor so it is with great pleasure that I now step into the editor role. For the past two years I have had the wonderful experience of living in Hong Kong and working for The South China Morning Post, the main English broadsheet newspaper in Hong Kong and Southern China. Living in Asia was a fantastic experience but being away also makes you appreciate many things about home. One of those is a renewed recognition of the Irish convenience store sector. The standard of convenience stores in Hong Kong and China pales in comparison to what we have in Ireland. Granted, you can’t walk ten steps without seeing a 7 Eleven but the range of products and services is severely limited in comparison to what you find in a typical Irish store. Gillian Hamill’s interview with Con Moloney (page 22), the proprietor of a high calibre forecourt in Laois, demonstrates just how sophisticated our convenience model is.
Returning home and witnessing the carnage that this recession has brought was shocking. Seeing shops and forecourts that were once thriving businesses closed down was a poignant realisation of just how serious things had become. Expensive revamps left many retailers in huge debt and once consumers cut back on high margin foods, profits dwindled and debts kept building. Retail Ireland is now urging local authorities across the country to give retailers a 10% rebate on their commercial rates bill, given the very serious challenges the sector is facing this year.
However, if figures from Retail Excellence Ireland are to be believed, the country could be returning to growth by this time next year. The last couple of years have taught us a few valuable lessons, albeit harsh ones. Wages had become over inflated, which meant that Ireland had become uncompetitive and as a result, unattractive to foreign investment. We had lost sight of the value of money and in certain industries, the meaning of service. Consumers are now demanding value where before they wouldn’t even bother to check their change.
Colette O’Connor’s analysis of the retail wages survey conducted by Excel Recruitment (page 16) exposes how attitudes and expectations have changed dramatically within the sector. The survey shows that 90% of retail staff have received pay cuts this year and only 2% of managers saw pay rises. People are doing more work for less money yet nobody dares to complain because everyone knows the alternative. The survey also reveals how 85% of managers have seen an improvement in the quality of work by staff in the past 12 months. This is good news for consumers who can expect even higher levels of customer service than ever before.
I would be delighted to hear from you about any news, issues or happenings in the trade and can be contacted by phone or email.