A must-stop shop

Delaney’s Mace in Castlebar has doubled in size since January and boosts a fresh and inviting external appearance
Delaney’s Mace in Castlebar has doubled in size since January and boosts a fresh and inviting external appearance

The Mace store in the Moneen industrial estate in Castlebar has undergone some massive changes since the beginning of this year. With a doubling of the store size and several additions to the services offered, customers in the area are voting with their feet and wallets. Fiona Donnellan paid a visit to the newly-revamped store



10 September 2013

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Delaney’s Mace,

Moneen Industrial Estate,
Co Mayo

Owners: Padraic and Karena Delaney

Size: 3,000 sq ft

Staff: 16 – 13 full-time and three part-time

Padraic and Karena Delaney, operating as PKD Retail, have had a busy 2013. Following a year of planning and an investment of nearly €200,000, renovation work on their 1,500 sq ft store on the edge of Castlebar began in January. The store has been doubled in size, a seating area has been put in and a host of new services have been added along with a new, fresh feel to the shop. The new-look store was completed in April but no official re-opening has taken place as of yet. It’s something that Padraic Delaney says will come in time. "We haven’t done a grand opening, we haven’t advertised anything yet, we’ve just got opened and got on with it. We are planning to do an opening but we felt that we wanted to get the product right first. We wanted to make sure that our message was clear, that the products were 100%."

Rising up through the ranks

Delaney has been in retail for most of his career. After training as a manager with SuperValu in Tuam, he joined BWG in 1999 and worked under the Spar banner until 2005. Delaney then took the franchise on a Maxol site in Westport which he still has today. The Castlebar site came up for lease in 2009. The site, which was owned by Top Oil at the time, was quite run down by the time Delaney got his hands on it but that wasn’t long in changing. With an investment of €80,000, the shop was given a mini-facelift and started to turn around. "We thought there was a lot of potential in it so we put an investment of around €80,000 into it back in 2009 which introduced some new elements to it. The Turbo Chef brought us into the pizzas and the hot sandwiches, ciabattas and all that kind of thing. We bought a hot and cold deli counter, a new till system and just gave the shop a bit of a refresh."

The full revamp

The 2009 facelift worked well for the next couple of years and business increased steadily but when it began to level off, Delaney knew action was needed. The real strength of the store is in its fresh food offering. The food-to-go sector of the business is the main driver, which is evident the minute you walk through the doors. Delaney knew the opportunity was ripe to capitalise on that: "Based on the success of food-to-go, we said there was definitely a chance to push this on further again because, even at that point, prior to the last revamp we did, 33% of the business was all food-to-go. It was a huge part of the business." In 2011, Top Oil approached Delaney with an offer to offload the site to him so the entire site came under Delaney.

The planning process began in 2012 with construction work starting last January. The offices next door to the shop, which had come with the site when it was purchased from Top Oil, were completely gutted and refurbished into the current seating area. The work lasted four months and the store managed to maintain its opening hours, with few exceptions. "We did a full revamp on the site. We tiled the floor; we replaced the ceiling, replaced all the lighting, and replaced the shelving. We kept some of the old refrigeration but 95% of everything that’s in the store now is all new. We got two extra six-foot cold counters, one four-foot hot counter, we invested in a second coffee machine, an extra till, a high-speed diesel pump for the forecourt and we got an ATM machine into the store as an extra facility." The cooking space for the deli was doubled and a full scratch bakery was also installed. The offices were renovated first and then, while the main shop was being completed, the shop was moved into the seating area for around three weeks. The construction work didn’t impact too severely on the business though, according to Delaney. "We were about three weeks operating out of the temporary store so it was stressful but in saying that, we didn’t lose an awful lot of business. We lost about 20% of our turnover for those three weeks and that was mainly down to people thinking that we were closed."

Paying dividends

The revamp has been a huge success with the shop’s customers. In the five months since the new and improved store was unveiled, turnover has increased by 22% and is steadily climbing. The food-to-go side of the business accounts for 42% of turnover, up from 33%. Customers are happy with the improved store and the shop is gaining new custom. "What we’ve managed to do is convert some people that were heading into cafés during the week for their lunch; they’re now staying in the area and coming in here." Competition is fierce in Castlebar with several operators within walking distance. Delaney says that the standard is quite high in the town: "We have a lot of competitors around here. We have two Topaz stores, Londis-branded Topaz sites at either side of us; one on the Breaffy Road and the other at the roundabout up the road. Both are good operators. We also have Corrib Oil which is a little bit further on but a very good retailer. So we’re up against it, we’re not operating in an easy market; it’s a very tough market here. Prices are very competitive and the quality is high as well." The space afforded to the deli offering takes up a huge part of the store. Delaney says the advantage of being able to display the fresh food offering is important. "It hits you when you come in the door and some of our competitors don’t have the same amount of deli where we have eight metres of counter. Some of our competitors might only have half that."

The new seating area has proved instrumental in increasing footfall and the deli trade. A second point of difference is the dinnertime offering which the store has branched into. It’s something that not all retailers offer and is proving an advantage. Another addition that has attracted more passing traffic is the shop’s toilet facilities. Delaney says it’s a topic that came up when they asked customers about what they would like to see in a forecourt station. "We did a bit of market research and spoke to customers and asked them if they go into a filling station what do they like to see and the one thing that kept coming back to us was toilets and the quality of the toilets. Sometimes men don’t really care about that but women do and they kept saying that to us. We’ve two purpose-built toilets that are inside, they’re beside the seating area, they’re ventilated and they’re kept clean. We think that might be another reason we’re attracting customers."

Local loyalty

While the store is situated in an industrial area, there is a strong sense of community. All of the staff are local to the Mayo area and many of the customers have been working in the locality for years so a sense of community has been built up. Staff hours were increased when the shop was revamped and Delaney says his staff were supportive of the changes. "We have 16 staff, they’ve been with me from the start. Most of them have come all the way along with us. My staff would know people that I don’t know and have a great relationship with the customers." Many of the new initiatives have come from the staff themselves, several of them for the food-to-go offering. "The scratch bakery was started by our deli manager Jo. She started with a table the size of a computer screen and three breads and it’s grown from that into one of the strongest things we have in the store. It’s definitely down to good staff."

Flag days and collections are a regular sight outside the store and the proximity to McHale Park ensures plenty of activity. Delaney says there is a sense of community which, he hopes, will drive forward the shop to increase its grocery turnover. I believe that if you can entice a customer in on the way home from work to pick up the loaf of bread, milk, rashers or the ham for the kids’ lunches in the morning, it’s a great thing. It’s hard work, harder than anything because you just have to keep at it. You may have to put up with a lot of waste at the start but you have to keep pushing and make sure that when your customer comes in during the day, they might not be looking for groceries but you can plant the seed and eventually they’ll see that the quality is there. I’m hoping to build on that."

Convenience central

While Delaney has plans to increase the store’s grocery lines, the core of the business is, and will remain, convenience shopping. "People come in here for convenience. We try to give them value if we can but value is not the number one reason they come in. Our number one tagline is the convenience element of the store but once they pass the door then the value message hits." The value message is certainly evident throughout the store with signs and offers highlighted across several lines. Delaney says that BWG and the Mace Group have changed their promotional cycle and this is working with customers. The Mace own-brand range is also growing and sales are increasing, especially in the chilled aisle and biscuit products.

Delaney is not content to sit on his laurels now that the revamp has been completed and the feedback is positive. "I don’t think this site has reached its potential, there’s more in it. We’ve work to do out in the car park, we’ve managed to get an extra bit of ground off Top which will yield an extra 14 car park spaces. There’s the opportunity for a stronger Sunday, which was a weaker day. We think there’s the chance to develop the grocery side of things, get a little bit more in the evenings and weekends. I’ve done a deal with a guy on a car wash which he’s going to come in and run as his own with a mini-valet service. There’s a lot left to do, we’re not done!" Delaney is also not adverse to the idea of perhaps taking on another site in the future. Looks like the future is bright for PKD Retail. 




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