A fresh focus
A newly-renovated store in a highly suburban area, Mace Beaumont packs a lot into a small space. Retailer Susan Barry’s next objective is to build the business even further by focusing on her store’s new-found strengths
19 August 2016
12 Shantalla Rd, Beaumont, Dublin 9
Owner: Susan Barry
Staff: 12 – three full-time, nine part-time
Size: 2,000 sq ft
Often when ShelfLife gets out to visit a store, it’s a flagship operation, perhaps a super-sized c-store and forecourt at a busy N-road junction. It was a refreshing change of pace then, to visit Mace Beaumont, in the heart of the Dublin suburb. Shantalla Road is a relatively quiet spot, but that’s not to say that retailer Susan Barry runs a sleepy store. Not one bit.
It’s a busy Thursday morning, and as we arrive, there’s brisk business being done at the deli while a shop assistant replenishes the fresh bakery counter. Barry emerges from the back office to greet us, but asks if we’d mind hanging on as she has to pop to the bank. Not at all. While she’s gone, we take a moment to have a good look at the newly-renovated store.
It’s clear that a lot of recent work has gone into Mace Beaumont. The new floor and units are in tip-top condition, and as one enters the store a welcoming open space contains a Cuisine de France stand as well as a fresh fruit and vegetable section and a self-service coffee machine. To the left are the grocery aisles and cash register section, followed by a sizeable full off-licence which makes excellent use of space in the shop’s far corner. Straight ahead then is an equally impressive deli counter, along with a bakery section (made in-house, part of the renovation), ATM and more.
While Susan Barry is running her errand, a confectionery rep arrives to see her unexpectedly. He floats around waiting to see her, and doorsteps her just as she arrives back in the shop; turns out it’s just a courtesy visit. It’s then that a member of the baking staff needs a quick steer on the day’s schedule, before Barry takes a moment to check the store’s email in the office before finally offering ShelfLife her full attention. All those tasks done, and we’ve only been in the store a matter of minutes. “Every day is different,” she tells us, “it’s a seven day a week job really. You’re always on call whenever the shop is open.”
Barry’s Mace opened in 2007 when, as part of her ongoing career in retailing, she finally found the right site to set up her own business. “It was a brand new store,” she recalls, “I think the building had been a coal yard and a travel agent beforehand. Something like that anyway. I had been thinking of opening my own business for a couple of years, and my brother owned a shop in the IFSC [Dublin’s financial district].
“It’s very time-consuming,” Barry continues. “You put a lot of money into it and it can be very stressful. I actually started my business at the same time the recession hit, which made it even more difficult to juggle everything and keep costs down.”
But Barry and her staff survived the storm and now Mace Beaumont is a valued part of the north Dublin community. Skip on a number of years to this past April, and a long-overdue revamp of the store commenced. Barry confesses that the extent of the facelift took her by surprise at first. “Not that I didn’t intend it to be comprehensive,” she says, “but in a way you don’t realise what it entails.
“You can do a sort of quick-fix, lick-of-paint revamp,” she continues, “or you can go all the way and get everything done. So we had around a year of discussions with BWG before getting started; it took that long to come to fruition.”
The revamp process
First to be revamped were the lights, and Barry recalls the effect it had on the store’s overall aesthetic was a marvel. “It made a huge difference to the place,” she says. “The previous lights were so old, a lot of them weren’t working, so the new LEDs really changed the look of the place.
“I haven’t seen the bill yet, but apparently they slash your energy costs,” she adds, “so there’s another added benefit.”
Once the lighting was brought up to date, the total revamp of Barry’s Mace began proper. The deli, fruit and veg section and refrigeration were redeveloped, while a new scratch bakery was added in the back to provide freshly prepared goods on a daily basis. “With the revamp we’re focusing on the fresh food end of the store,” Barry says. “I think people are becoming more health conscious. Mace has its Right Options initiative encouraging customers to choose healthier snacks during the day; all the other retailers have their own healthy eating plans too.
“It seems the whole country now is determined to get healthy,” Barry continues, “to eat better and so on, so that’s what we’re focusing on too, opening up on our fruit and veg and salad options, and bringing a fresh atmosphere into the shop.”
It’s been said in these pages before that by the time a retailer completes a revamp, they are already into planning what the next upgrade to their store will be. An extension here, a new piece of equipment there; not so with Susan Barry this time out. She is determined to focus her efforts now on growing the business and expanding on the improvements already made to the business.
“I’ve taken on a new assistant manager to look after some of the day-to-day running of the store,” Barry says, “so I can concentrate on developing the business and growing it.
“At the moment, it’s all fresh and new,” she says, “so it’s time to see what’s out there and see what we can do next before we get into making even more changes.”
Elsewhere in this month’s edition of ShelfLife, we explore the realities of the government’s proposed structural separation legislation. The recent revamp of Mace Beaumont seems to have made allowances for this new rule by moving the off-licence into a corner. The positioning means that if and when the proposed wall does go up, it will be less of a logistical challenge than it might have been.
“Because of the revamp,” Susan agrees, “there was an opportunity to move the off-licence to a part of the shop that would be easier to close off. That wasn’t the only reason, but it’ll be fortunate if structural separation does come along.”
Forward planning on Mace Beaumont’s part doesn’t mean that Susan Barry is any more enthusiastic about the proposed legislation, however. Her objections are similar to all other retailers’. “For supermarkets it’s one thing,” she says, “but small stores don’t have a lot of money or space to make such a big change.
“To enclose your alcohol products behind closed doors is harder than it sounds,” she says, “and I’m not sure it would make much difference anyway. The budget would be very hard – there’s construction and electrics, you might need to purchase an entirely new refrigeration unit, moving other layouts, then there’s the staffing.
“The cost would be very high,” she says.
So then, Susan Barry’s voice can be added to the long list of retailers for whom structural separation would cause a major headache and massive financial layout, with very little evidence to suggest it would have the intended effect. “I don’t think it’s made a difference with cigarette smokers,” she says. “Has hiding them from view been proven to make a difference in people smoking? Sales are actually down, but I believe that’s due to the price – people are opting for illegal cigarettes when they can.”
As we depart, another of Susan Barry’s employees approaches her with a query; the day is just beginning for Mace Beaumont and there is an awful lot to get through in one day. But every day is different as a retailer, she tells us, and she wouldn’t change it for the world.