A trip to The Market
When Griffin’s opened The Market in Stepaside, Dublin, a year ago it was the first sign that the well-known group had a desire to diversify its offering, writes Fionnuala Carolan
13 August 2010
Owner: Seamus Griffin
Size: 4,500 sq ft
The name Griffin is synonomous with city centre convenience retailing with more than 20 Londis Stores dotted along Dublin city’s main thoroughfares.This 4,500sq ft store was a huge investment for the Griffin group and it signals a move into a new kind of retailing. This small supermarket is nestled among a new housing development named Belarmine, near Sandyford and is very much a community store. From the onset the team has concentrated their efforts on the fresh food offering and tweaking it to suit their loyal customers. If a customer asks for a certain product the staff endeavor to get it for them.
Trevor Kearns, the manager of The Market has been nuturing this new brand over the past year. Kearns had been working for Seamus Griffin’s group for some years prior to taking this position. Having worked in some of the city centre stores and then moving to Superquinn for a stint he returned to Griffin’s to oversee the fresh food side of the business. When this new store came about he put his hand up for the general manager role. “I felt it was a huge opportunity to open a new store of a new brand that hadn’t been in existence before,” he says.
A mammoth task
Kearns admits that opening the store was a mammoth task but one that he fully embraced. “We moved in on a Thursday morning and the builders were still here. There were no items on the shelves. We had 25 staff and a lot of people drafted in to help and we worked flat out and managed to open the next day. It was a serious challenge. We only had running water and electricity about three hours before the shop opened.”
Before this store was built there was a distinct lack of services in the area so the locals were quick to adapt to their new supermarket. “It’s a really local shop,” says Kearns. “The customers couldn’t wait to get through the doors. I’d been involved in opening other sites previous to this but had never had the same reaction”. He says they also got the pick of the bunch staff wise. “Due to so much unemployment there were tonnes of applications for jobs and the standard was so high. The assistant manager, Audrey Ryan, used to manage Roches Stores. In different times, we wouldn’t have had such a high standard of staff to choose from. We have a really amazing team here.”
A team effort
The team includes five full time chefs, as the focus was very much on creating a strong fresh food offering. Opening a business mid-recession is far from ideal but Kearns says they are pleased with how business is faring. I wondered if they had ever considered postponing plans until the market improved?
“Seamus doesn’t back out of anything. If he makes a commitment to do something, he does it. He is involved in the business completely until the door opens and then he hands it over to you and it’s up to you to make sure things happen. Regards concept and design Seamus is 100% involved but once the doors are open he’s on to the next project.”
With a huge kitchen below the shop, plans for a catering service are currently coming into practice. The shop has already catered some major launches but can cater for any size function and create menus to suit the customer. Kearns hadn’t realised the huge costs that were involved in running such a large kitchen and says they have had to be innovative to make it work for them.
They are shipping out some bakery products to other Griffin stores around the city. “Margins are tighter than originally predicted but 20% of our food sold is from the deli and most of that food is made in-house. Most of the bakery items like muffins, breads, rocky roads, caramel slices and cakes are produced downstairs.”
Social networking rather than traditional marketing
Kearns has truly embraced the new brand and has been extremely successful in marketing the store though social networking sites likes Facebook and Twitter. “We have done so much free marketing to grow the brand. We use Facebook and Twitter and our website to promote all activity in store.
Between Facebook and Twitter The Market has approximately 1,200 fans. It’s free marketing,” says Kearns. “It gives you that personal touch. The customers feel like they are speaking to someone they know rather than a shop. We do special offers just for our Facebook fans. For Valentine’s day we gave a password to all our online followers which was “I’m in love with somebody” and anyone who said this at the till got a free box of chocolates”. Kearns believes that it pays to spend less money on traditional types of advertising and to put this money into giving something back to the customer.
“You’re hitting the people you want to hit. It’s interactive. Your customers can tell you what they think.
"Every week we have a curry night. We sell two main courses, rice, naan bread and a bottle of wine for just €14.99. The curry is made freshly in store. We remind people about it on Facebook that day.”
Kearns also runs competitions that are linked to Facebook. “I came up with the idea of getting people to use The Market bags. They are really good quality hesham bags with branding on them. There are numerous ways to win a voucher. One of these is to take a picture of the bag as far from the shop as possible. We actually had a picture of a bag in New York. The sales of the bag went up. The prize was a €200 holiday voucher”.
Happy birthday to you
The shop has just celebrated its first birthday and to mark the occasion they had a party and invited all their customers. Attendees were treated to a barbeque, birthday cake and a band played for the afternoon. “When we had our bbq some of the local councilors came and one of them commented that we were at the heart of the community here in Stepaside.
Kearns says that the main challenge has been convincing customers of the value in store. “What was hard was that people thought we were expensive because of the look of the shop.” The internal fit out is of a very high standard. There is a generous use of wood and huge space is allocated to fresh produce. However when you visit the off-licence the value is starring you straight in the face with Blossom Hill wines at two for €10 and Smirnoff vodka for €16.99.
A nice place to shop
With 20,000 dwellings in the vicinity and serving approx 12,000 customers a week, some of the store’s success comes from the lack of competition in the area. In saying this they have customers coming from as far as Stillorgan because Kearns has insured that this is a really pleasant place to shop and customer service is of a very high standard. He compares it to the Superquinn experience. “I used to work for Superquinn and it’s similar to that. It’s a brand that people want to be associated with. I love seeing the customer coming through the door. I’m a real people person. I like to be on the shop floor interacting with the customers.”
When asked whether there were any more of these concept stores in the pipeline, he wasn’t giving much away but sounded pretty positive about the possibility. “This store been a huge success so there is no reason why we wouldn’t repeat it.”