A new chapter begins

Owen Doyle, retailer, Marshall's Londis Plus; Terry O'Brien, regional development manager, Londis and former store owner Jim Marshall
Owen Doyle, retailer, Marshall's Londis Plus; Terry O'Brien, regional development manager, Londis and former store owner Jim Marshall

Marshall's shop has shared a long history with Mullingar and the local community, having first opened its doors in 1949. In 2009 a new chapter in the store's long history began, when Owen Doyle took over the reins. David Corscadden reports.



10 July 2013

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Marshall’s Londis Plus
Mullingar, Co. Westmeath

Owner: Owen Doyle
Size: Approx. 8,500 sq ft
Staff: 38 full and part-time

Having recently rebranded to the Londis Plus brand, Owen Doyle continues to drive Marshall’s of Mullingar forward and maintain its close relationship with the local community. Having worked in Ireland and England, Doyle has a long history with the retail sector, having started off his journey working part time for H Williams during school. Coming across the opportunity to buy Marshall’s in 2009, it was a chance to re-join the retail sector that Doyle could not pass up on.

Starting young

Doyle began his retail career in 1979, by working part time for H Williams in Tallaght. After completing his Leaving Cert, he went back to the company to work full-time, training up to manager level. By the time H Williams ceased trading in 1987, Doyle had worked his way up to store manager in Shankill.

After this period in his life, Doyle travelled to England and worked for Safeway for a short period of time. Missing his native land, he decided to move back to Ireland and in 1988 began working for Quinnsworth. Having worked for Quinnsworth for a number of years, Doyle was offered a job with SuperValu in Deansgrange, where he worked from 1989 to 1992. 

In 1992 Musgraves offered him his first Centra store in Rathcoole. In the subsequent years Doyle acquired four more stores, meaning he was splitting his time between five stores up until 2007. At this point he decided he wanted a change and sold all five of his stores. When asked why he decided to sell up he says: "I found it frustrating to keep good people". This, coupled with the time spent travelling from shop to shop, drove him to take a break from the retail industry entirely. 

A perfect fit

In 2009, Doyle bought Marshall’s in Mullingar from Jim Marshall and started his retail journey again. On the reason why he decided to go back into retail he says: "Pure madness! It seemed like the right thing to do at the time, obviously having been in the business all my life I felt that I missed it." While Doyle says some retailers may disagree with him, he believes that no two days are the same in a shop. Missing the day-to-day business and invigorating environment associated with retail, finding Marshall’s was the perfect excuse to get back into the business in a way that suited him. Having learnt from his past experiences, Doyle explains that he wanted one large store instead of a number of smaller ones. "Rather than having four or five smaller stores I preferred to put all my energy into one much larger store."

The Marshall’s name has been associated with retail in Mullingar for some time now. This was an aspect of the existing store that Doyle wanted to keep and he was keen to preserve its rich heritage. The shop on Green Road was first opened in 1949 by Michael and Susan Marshall. The family store tradition then continued with their son Jim. Over the time he ran the store, Jim Marshall bought many adjacent properties and expanded the store from a mere couple of hundred square feet to the near 8,500 square feet store that stands on the site today.

Even though Marshall has sold the shop, he still comes in regularly and advises Doyle with his years of personal experience. Doyle says: "Jim is still very much involved. Not in an ownership capacity but he still comes in and out quite a bit and he still guides me with certain things". Doyle believes it is extremely important for him to still play a role in the shop as not being from the area himself, the former owner is able to explain things that happen in the town. "Every town is different," Doyle explains. "They have their own way of doing things and Jim has been here since he was a nipper." 

Making changes

While Doyle was concerned with keeping the history of the store alive, he also wanted to put his own stamp on the premises. He soon realised that he would have to win over the local customers with his planned changes. "I did have to make quite a few changes in layout and staff, so there was really quite a few changes to do and there was a lot of pain too because obviously people don’t like change. They certainly don’t like when a new person comes into a shop they have been dealing in for 20, 30 or 40 years. One woman said to me she used to shop in here when Jim’s father first opened the shop and I came in, a new boy and started changing things around. They weren’t too happy." Yet Doyle says that once his customers saw the changes and how they benefit the overall running of the store, they appreciated them. 

The main changes that took place were on the main floor; shortening and lowering the aisles to suit more economically sound stock levels. In more recent times the shop has undergone another revamp to the Londis Plus brand. The exterior has now changed to the Londis corporate colours yet the Marshall name is still above the door. While the store has been altered, a sense of family still reigns in the store with Doyle’s two sons and wife working alongside him. A tradition that he feels echoes the strong commitment the Marshall family had for the store.

Community strong 

Community truly is the driving force behind Marshall’s success in Mullingar and one of the reasons it has survived so long. Getting to know the customers and physically being down on the shop floor to shake hands and smile with customers is important in the close knit community. "If I was sitting up here and didn’t spend the time down there, they wouldn’t know who I was and that is very important in a shop like this, one that really is part of the community. This isn’t a supermarket like Tesco, Dunnes or Aldi. People come in here for social occasions. They come in here and they want to have a chat and they want know everything about you." The store’s 38 staff are a key factor in connecting with the local community, as many of them live within a five minute radius of the shop. This creates a relaxed, welcoming environment within the store as everyone knows everyone. 
The staff also play a vital role in driving home the value message of the store, advising customers on in-store promotions and deals. Driving home this message was difficult for Doyle as an independent retailer, however since joining the Londis Plus brand this is not a problem. "The Londis Plus brand is now getting the value message out there and it shows customers that we have the offering, we have what you are looking for and we have pricing that compares with the multiples. We do leaflet drops every three weeks and the launch of a new loyalty card is rewarding loyal customers and telling them that we have value on a regular basis."

With immense competition all around Mullingar, value-for-money and an extremely personal service are vitally important in staying ahead of the rest. "I would in fact say it is the most competitive town I have ever been in because of the population and what you have feeding into it", remarks Doyle. Aligning with the Londis Plus brand has also offered a wider selection of products to customers which sit alongside a number of locally produced products. "We support a huge range of local companies, a lot of local bread and cake companies, strawberries grown in Mullingar, bedding plants all grown in Mullingar and mushrooms; it really is right across the board".


When asked about the future, Doyle shot down the possibility of opening other stores. "I spent too much time trying to go between stores before so the future plan would be to grow this one to its maximum [potential]". Doyle would like to create a store that resembles some of the super-sized multiples and offer customers everything they need under one roof. "Long term I would like to expand it to offer an all-encompassing package. The same way you go into some of the super-size stores and you can go in and have your coffee or go into the chemist, it is all under one roof. I think that is the way forward for us, if a customer wants to come in and sit down in the restaurant they can, if they want to do their shopping they can do their shopping. It is just to give customers the complete one-stop-shop." Doyle may follow in Jim Marshall’s footsteps and buy adjacent houses or gardens to expand the business in the future to include everything he would like to get into the shop. "If there is a service or extra that I can fit in the box I will try to do it", he says.

While the future includes expansion to the store’s services, community development is also very important in its evolution. It is important to develop the connection with the community further and that the history of great customer service remains for years to come.




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