A super revamp

The fresh food hall in SuperValu, Glanmire
The fresh food hall in SuperValu, Glanmire

Under retailer Liam Ryan's stewardship, Supervalu Glanmire has undergone a major revamp and is being touted as one of the best stores of its kind in Europe.



13 July 2010

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Co Cork

Owner: Liam Ryan
Size: 26,000 sq ft
Staff: 146

To most people, going to the supermarket is not a chore that fills them with excitement, more a necessary part of the weekly grind. When someone decides to do something to make that experience better, it transforms the type of shopping experience you can have. Liam Ryan owner of Supervalu Glanmire wanted his store to be different and to be better than the rest, so no stone was left unturned while researching ideas and concepts for this revamp.

Ryan is a chartered accountant by profession but admits he has no passion for it. His change of tack came when a client, Pat Cadigan, owner of SuperValu in Togher, offered to sell the business to him and he admits that he jumped at the opportunity.

“I knew the business would suit me. I had a few SuperValu clients while I was an accountant who did well and could see the potential but I had no experience dealing with staff. I lost my shirt the first and second quarters. A member of the public came and told me I had some dishonest people working for me. I fired three people that day and I started working the business and learning how to deal with the complexities of my staff. After that things started to turn around.”

He soon contracted the retail bug and the Togher store was to be the start of something great for Ryan. He has subsequently opened a Centra in Raheen, Limerick with his brother and in August 2005 he opened a SuperValu in Grange, Douglas, which won SuperValu Store of the Year in 2008. He readily admits that he has not had the same success with every venture and explains how he opened a Centra in Aherla near Ballincollig in 2006. “It was one of those little villages that was expected to boom but it never did.” Undeterred, six months later he bought the SuperValu in Kilmallick and sold his share in the Limerick store to his brother.

sv3A little brick of fate

The Glanmire store came about by chance or fate as Ryan calls it. “A supplier of mine told me there was a great site in Glanmire. One day I was playing golf in Fermoy and when coming back a little pup threw a concrete brick over the bridge and smashed the windscreen of my car. I got an awful fright. The windscreen came in on top of us. I turned around and went looking for the culprits. I soon realised just how many houses there were in Glanmire. I immediately said, ‘I’ll buy that site!’”

In February 1996 he opened a 3,500 sq ft Centra across the river from the current site. It was an immediate success. “I soon realised it wasn’t big enough and I applied for planning permission for an extension. One of the local shopkeepers objected and I went to An Bord Pleanála but in the meantime Owen O’ Callaghan, the developer, was selling this site here so I applied for planning permission for an 11,500 sq ft store here and was successful.”

The Glanmire SuperValu was opened in May, 2000. “Once I opened Glanmire I put a management structure in place because we had three very good shops and I couldn’t be around them all. I also put in standardised systems throughout the stores and this worked very well,” explains Ryan.

sv4Time for expansion

Three years ago Ryan decided that the Glanmire store still wasn’t large enough for the thriving community. It was decided it would be extended from 11,000 sq ft to nearly 25,000 sq ft plus an additional three levels of car parking.

The store was relaunched in April this year. The internal fit-out was designed by Ryan in conjunction with the Musgrave design team. Ryan traveled to Europe, America and the UK putting together ideas for an alternative store design. “I worked with Musgraves and convinced them that even in times of recession you had to spend money to provide what my customers needed.”  

He explains that he wanted to change the whole fresh food area and provide a fresh food hall based on elements from Selfridges in London, WholeFoods in New York and Roche Brothers in Boston. “We opened up the floor and changed the ceilings. The LED lighting in the fresh food hall was inspired by Galeries Layfayette in Paris. I decided with my engineer and with Deter McCallan, store development director, that the concept would be that you would stand at the front door and look all the way to the back and see all the fresh foods at eye level.” The new fixtures are all low-level, timber based and on wheels. They built a full sized catering kitchen which allowed them to develop their convenience range of food named the Supper Pot. “We started the Supper Pot in Grange but it took five years to get it right. I had to get people who had the passion I had and get the convenience element right.

“We now have a range of 40/50 lines and we are expanding this all the time. I have a very committed fresh food team. June Sherlock, our fresh food manager overlooks this project and is assisted by Paul O’ Connell, head chef and his team of ten.”
There was a wonderful reaction from the locals when the new store was launched and it even received a visit from Brian Cowen. Ryan says that gross margin has grown by 1.2% already and that they are back to 2007 figures. “We have invested very heavily but we feel like our business has come out stronger,” he says.

sv5From the design perspective

Michael Twohig, a member of the Musgrave design team, worked hand in hand with Liam Ryan throughout the regeneration project of the Glanmire store. He spoke to ShelfLife about the intricacies of the design. 

According to Twohig, head of store development operations, a key consideration for project manager, Conor Foley was that the concepts rolled out in the store should be able to fit all stores. The team also wanted to ensure that the store maximised its return on available space and that all the latest design developments were captured.

“It was great to work with Liam who is always challenging us to come up with different and better solutions,” says Twohig. “The scale of the project in itself was challenging and had to be completed over three phases. We would have had to complete a number of layouts to support that transition from the smaller scale store to the larger store scale we have today.” The planning for this store went back four to five years so was a major undertaking for all involved. 

One of the main concepts introduced was the open market feel.

“We wanted to highlight local producers and local products which aligns very well with our supporting Irish from a Supervalu perspective where 75% of our products are either manufactured or sourced in Ireland.” 

“The key was to highlight the provenance of the product to the consumer. We would have done this by communicating through local imagery, with the fresh food areas containing lots of images of the staff in each specific department.”

Sustainability and energy conservation was also a major concern for the team. The design team and designers Claire McNally and Caitriona Doran focused on the running costs of the equipment. There was a focus on the reduction of energy consumption across the whole store with a specific target of 10% reduction in energy and 10% reduction in Co2.

The team worked in conjunction with The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to reuse as much equipment as possible and introduce energy efficient equipment.

“From a store development perspective we would look to reuse as much as possible to ensure that there is no unnecessary waste,” says Twohig.

Twohig believes that Glanmire has reinvigorated the whole shopping experience.  “The feedback from customers and other retailers is that the first aisle has the wow factor and it has to be experienced. Liam has created an experience that very few stores in the British isles, I’d nearly go so far as to say Europe, can emulate. Feedback we’ve had even from international suppliers and manufacturers have highlighted that the fresh food area in Glanmire is one of the best they’ve experienced in Europe.”



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