CENTRA: Q&A with Dan Curtin, sales director
With its "Live Every Day" brand identity, Centra stores' ethos is as a family-owned business, working with hundreds of family-owned businesses across Ireland
26 August 2019 | 0
What are the main values that your symbol group channels through its retailers and their stores?
Partnering for success with independent retailers underpins Centra’s values and our approach to business. As a family-owned business, we work with hundreds of other family businesses and their local communities in Ireland. Our independent retail partners are able to be part of one of Ireland’s leading brands, benefit from our sales and marketing expertise and leverage our buying power. This approach is reflected in Centra’s 2018 performance where we recorded sales of €1.63 billion, resulting in a year-on-year increase of 3.6%. Our 2018 performance marked a new record for Centra and is testament to the dedication of our independent retailers across the country, who employ almost 11,000 people and serve over three million customers per week. Combined with our plans to open 25 new Centra stores as well as revamping 80 stores as part of an €35 million investment, this highlights the attractiveness of Centra’s partnership approach.
Wholesaling is a key part of the relationship between retailer and symbol group. How does your group maintain and promote this area of the business?
We are strategic business partners to hundreds of independent retailers with a shared goal to drive sales and increase profit. We are committed to long-term, stable relationships with our retail partners and by working together we deliver the best outcomes. This can be seen in the wide level of support we provide every day for our retailers in areas like finance, store training support, store design, marketing, IT, logistics, HR and store-specific strategic growth plans. We have a market leading support network for our retailers, which continues to attract new retailers to the group, with over 460 independent stores in our network.
More and more, symbol groups are pivoting towards a broader and more comprehensive fresh offering than ever before. From a symbol group’s perspective, what is the catalyst for this change?
Centra was ahead of the curve in the convenience market in identifying that consumers had become more health-conscious and fresh focused. Following our repositioning in 2016 to ‘Live Every Day’, we redefined convenience with a healthier, more innovative offering across our stores – helping to truly differentiate our brand versus competitors. Our “Inspired by” range followed suite with a premium range of 120 new products offering customers the best of carefully selected ingredients, food inspiration and convenience innovation. We continue to redefine convenience through store renovations to bring a fresh, stylish look that appeals to a new generation of Centra shoppers. Layout changes in-store ensure that healthier convenient alternatives are more prominently available. For example, front-ofstore fridges contain the likes of salad bowls and fruit pots so customers can grab a healthier alternative easily.
As well as this, ranges in-store have gone through radical transformation and reformulation to ensure the best quality such as our healthier bakery options. Responding to consumers, retailers and market trends, Centra continues to develop a healthier offering and innovative range unrivalled by competitors. In the past, convenience stores would have been synonymous with the breakfast roll but walking into a Centra today illustrates how we have revolutionised, with products like cold pressed tumeric shots and paleo salads. Centra serves over 3 million customers a week so we feel we have a responsibility to educate, inspire and ultimately encourage shoppers to make healthier choices – if they so choose. We promote moderation and choice; we are not a health food store. We aim to stay one step ahead of the competition by ensuring we stay close to the modern Irish consumer, who is looking for healthy alternatives, innovative ranges and great quality fresh food when short on time.
One of the main concerns among retailers in 2019 is soaring insurance premiums. Where does your symbol group stand on this issue and the burgeoning campaign to reduce these costs?
Insurance is one of the main business costs for the Irish food retail sector. Rising premiums put a cost burden on independent retailers who provide employment, source from local suppliers, support charities and sponsor local groups in their communities. In that regard, we welcome the government’s commitment to tackling the rising cost of doing business in Ireland.
Apart from the insurance question, what are the challenges facing the business as you see it, on a nationwide as well as a local level?
One of the other main challenges retailers face are commercial rates. We welcome moves by the government to improve rate collection levels, which will result in a fair valuation process for businesses going forward.