An abundance of Gala fare

Tom Hardiman, Gala regional manager and Michael O’Shaughnessy of Gala James Street
Tom Hardiman, Gala regional manager and Michael O’Shaughnessy of Gala James Street

Since opening its doors earlier this year, Gala James Street has made a concerted effort to deliver exactly what local shoppers want, explains retailer Michael O’Shaughnessy



11 July 2012

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Gala James Street,

45 James Street,

Dublin 8


Retailer: Michael O’Shaughnessy

Size: 2,000 sq ft

Staff: Ten; eight full-time, two part-time 


Retailer Michael O’Shaughnessy had a valuable head start when designing the layout of his recently opened Gala store based at James Street, Dublin 8. Fortuitously for him, he had previously worked at Gala’s head office where he specialised in store development and design. Naturally, he and the team from Gala subsequently put a great deal of thought into how they could maximise the available space at the 2,000 sq ft store to make it as customer friendly as possible. 


From a structural point of view, the retailer decided it made more sense to leave the in-store post office and deli in the same positions, yet he explains that the team re-examined “customer flow and looked at the position of all the categories” to ensure the store could be easily navigated by shoppers. A number of key categories were relocated such as the fruit and vegetables and bread departments and new equipment was introduced such as a new Bewley’s coffee machine, alongside carrying out a full Gala re-branding before the store was ready to re-open for business on 29 February after being closed for approximately six months. 

Growing up in retail


O’Shaughnessy’s experience within the retail trade certainly wasn’t limited to his head office days though. From a young age, he has had a firm grasp of how the retailing world operates from the shop floor. His father John had worked as an independent retailer who operated grocery and fruit and vegetables stores in Fairview and Finglas in the late 70s and 80s which O’Shaughnessy describes as “a good era for the independent greengrocer before the supermarkets came in.” Indeed, this also proved an important personal experience, which strongly influenced his future career. “I grew up in my father’s shop as a kid,” explains O’Shaughnessy. “I was very much involved in retail from the very start, and having progressed through the supermarkets and the petrol retail trade I got a taste for the shop end of things.”


In 1986, he had started working with Quinnsworth which later of course became Tesco, where he remained for 15 years, eventually progressing to the role of store manager. Next he worked as a retailer with Shell Ireland for two years before spending six years at Gala’s head office and then taking the plunge and opening up Gala James Street earlier this year.  


Gala James Street is situated in a busy city location, which often attracts many tourists travelling between the Guinness Store House and Kilmainham Jail

Gala James Street is situated in a busy city location, which often attracts many tourists travelling between the Guinness Store House and Kilmainham Jail

A hands-on challenge


While he enjoyed his time working for a multiple, O’Shaughnessy says he currently relishes the “hands-on” environment of a thriving convenience store. “When you’re working in a supermarket, there are more layers of management and delegation. As a store manager, you’ve got maybe 15 charge hands so you need to have a lot of meetings and HR. But working in a convenience store, you’re very much hands on, you have to do a bit of everything. You have to mind everything yourself from the tills to the staff, even down to pricing, watching margin and stock-taking. Not that you don’t complete those tasks as a supermarket manager, but it’s just very much more hands-on.” With this, he adds, comes the benefit of being “very much in control of your own destiny” and the reassurance that “you will get out of the business what you put into it”.


Starting in retail from a tender age, O’Shaughnessy was fully aware of the importance of getting the local community and businesses on board from the beginning. “We spent a lot of time looking at the local area,” explains the retailer. “One of the first things we did was we called to a number of local businesses, including the Guinness Store House, Momentum Support, which is a large cleaning company across the road, and National Radio Cabs, which is just next door. They opened up accounts with us and we’ve found this has really made a difference, so much so that our deli accounts for about 20% of our business. On the back of this, we did local marketing including designing a leaflet to create awareness of the store re-opening.”


Driving deli sales


Unsurprisingly, O’Shaughnessy is consequently not of the belief that the deli category has faltered, following the apparent demise of Ireland’s ‘breakfast roll men’. “Even for retailers currently, the perception is that the deli business is gone, that it’s fallen back,” he says, “but in this business it’s up to 20% of the business which is amazing because I know from my Gala days, the average was about 10% or 11% of sales, excluding lottery and phone credit”.


Alongside the busy deli, the fruit and veg category is also performing well, after “starting off fairly slowly and all of a sudden ballooning into a six day delivery requirement.” The fresh meat offer, which at the time of ShelfLife’s interview had only been available for a few weeks, has also achieved double digit percentage growth each week. And, situated between the Guinness Storehouse and Kilmainham Jail, tourists often call into Gala to ask for directions, resulting in the new ice-cream machine becoming a hit on sunnier days.


Selecting the right team


While O’Shaughnessy’s prior experience has certainly stood him in good stead, an area where he found the expertise of his colleagues at Gala, including regional manager Tom Hardiman, invaluable, was in the selection of staff. Given that he received around 300 CVs for 10 positions, sorting through so many applications represented a formidable task. 


As Denise Lord, Gala’s customer service manager comments: “Michael has a lot of expectations of customer care. The importance of getting the right team behind the store, and ensuring that the right mix of staff is helping the customer from the deli to the tills, cannot be understated.” 


Making security a priority


The post office is another important feature of the store which helps drive continual footfall though its doors. However being located within a busy inner-city area, the facility does demand extra consideration from the retailer’s point of view. Subsequently, there is a security guard employed in the afternoons and at busy periods. As O’Shaughnessy comments: “Nowadays you have to be very security conscious, so an independent company called Netwatch monitors the store 24 hours a day on external CCTV.” The Gala also works with the post office to “make sure queues are being managed, and that it’s not interrupting other customers trying to come into the shop, so that the two businesses complement each other”.


Value offers are also located next to the post office queue in order to entice those waiting to stock up and in general, O’Shaughnessy feels that the store’s value perception is currently extremely strong. He has also “met a lot of customers and asked them if there is anything the store didn’t have that they’d like to see offered.” Subsequently, the Gala now stocks value items such as large washing powders for €10.99 that would normally sell in supermarkets for €15, and O’Shaughnessy is hoping to develop his range even further following customer feedback of this nature. 


Gaining a reputation for value


The store offers essential staples at low prices such as two litres of milk for €2.50 and half a dozen eggs for €1, which are permanent offers that O’Shaughnessy believes “local customers really appreciate.” The Gala also supplies goods from local bread and cake companies and has a fresh meats range which includes the likes of a whole chicken for €4.99, which is tempting local customers away from making the journey to nearby popular shopping spot, Meath Street, to stock up on their essentials. The shop is further cementing its reputation for value by offering enticing deals on its Facebook page, giving out free gift cards to local businesses and offering a coffee loyalty card, whereby customers can get their sixth coffee free.


Since the deli opened, it has also offered a highly competitive deal of a chicken fillet roll, crisps and a drink for just €3.50, which customers liked so much that the store decided to work with its suppliers to ensure it could keep this promotion going. 


Growing the business sensibly


Looking towards the future, O’Shaughnessy says his goal is “to consolidate the business, try to be profitable and keep our overheads right so that we grow the business sensibly. I think in this current climate it’s all about being sensible, keeping the standards up and working with the Gala team in driving our standards.” 


In this respect, he finds taking part in Gala’s BEST (Business Excellence Standards Tool) programme, which looks at each aspect of a store, from mystery shoppers to standards to services, to be a useful motivator in helping to drive overall standards. “We’ll be consistent in standards, drive the business and make sure that we’re going to be here for the future,” says the retailer, who definitely appears to be on the right path in ensuring this becomes the case. 






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