Corkonian champions

Musgrave territory manager Trevor Cannon and retailer Paul Cotter outside Cotter's Daybreak on Washington Street, Cork
Musgrave territory manager Trevor Cannon and retailer Paul Cotter outside Cotter's Daybreak on Washington Street, Cork

With two thriving Daybreak shops in Cork city centre, retailer Paul Cotter is kept busy dashing between his two compact yet cleverly designed c-stores



9 March 2012

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Fondly referred to as “the real capital” by good natured locals, Cork is a city that boomed during the Celtic Tiger years; a rise symbolically cemented by becoming the home of Ireland’s tallest building, the Elysian. Despite since entering gloomier economic times, the city has retained its well-renowned charm, even managing to thoroughly impress no less than Queen Elizabeth II. By all reports, she was delighted with the people and atmosphere she found when visiting the city’s bustling English Market last summer. A buzz is still palpable in Cork city today, something which retailer Paul Cotter can quickly attest to. Owning two Daybreak stores in the city centre within minutes’ walk of each other, namely on Grand Parade and Washington Street, he has the good fortune to receive “good footfall, day and night.” 

Maximising space

Although his stores are relatively small, with approximately 1,000 sq ft of floor space each, their compact space has been maximised to ensure it can deliver the best possible return. The two stores were both renovated in December, and Cotter notes he is impressed by their “vibrant, fresh and modern appearance”. Explaining more about the refurbishment he says: “Daybreak did a lot of work on the shops in November and December; there was several site meetings and we went over absolutely everything five or six times to make sure everything was correct. There was a lot of thought put into the layout of both stores. In fact, there was no work started until we were all happy with the final design. There’s still a bit of tweaking to be done, but the Daybreak team are only a phone call away.” 
Musgrave representative Trevor Cannon, who regularly visits the store every two to three weeks, confirms that there was “a lot of work involved in getting the right space allocation” for the store’s three best performing categories; namely, the deli, soft drinks and confectionery sections. Making the best possible use of the space available was particularly important in the Grand Parade shop, which is narrower than the Washington Street store. However in saying that, Cotter notes that the former “still utilises both sides of the shop” and can be easily navigated by customers.

Delivering a ‘must stock’ grocery range 

What’s more, although the city centre shops are geared towards impulse-driven categories, customers can still find a full, yet streamlined grocery offering at the stores. Cotter notes: “Daybreak would send out a must stock list monthly so we make sure we’re up to date with that and we have what people are looking for. If it’s something obscure, possibly we don’t have it but we have to think of the business side of trading as well.” 
Musgrave marketing executive Robert Corcoran explains more about the Daybreak group’s must stock list, adding that this includes “227 products across every category. It’s not just grocery, but tobacco, confectionery, liquor, and impulse; we look at the list and we benchmark it across the market every quarter to see what the top two or three products are within every individual category. Essentially these are the products that consumers want and they’re the products that retailers should stock in order to raise sales”. 

Benefiting from IT background

With both shops’ available space being utilised to their full advantage, Cotter is also ensuring that he fully uses all his business skills and experience to generate the best possible return. He previously worked for the Musgrave Group, as an IT systems engineer for five years, before opening the Washington Street store almost six years ago. While he enjoyed this work, based at Musgrave’s head office on the Tramore Road, it was always his clear ambition to one day operate his own store. As he explains: It was always something that I was going to do. I spent five years in and out of shops, five days a week, I liked the thought of it and I knew that some day I was going to do it. And I just decided over five years that I would take the plunge.” 
His prior experience has certainly proved useful, as working within the “back office” aspect of retail has focused his mind on essential business tasks, such as “watching margin and keeping an eye on what products are moving and which aren’t.” Due to his IT background, which saw Cotter become qualified in computer programming at college, the retailer seems ideally placed to tell us what he thinks of Daybreak’s IT solutions offering overall. Fortunately in this respect, the c-store group seems to have come up trumps, with its online Retailer Zone programme. 
Robert Corcoran explains that the initiative offers Daybreak’s retailers “a wider pool of knowledge of access and support. It is a tool kit of support for retailers which head office regularly updates to provide retailers with trading and marketing updates. Retailers can also download their own local, personalised point of sale, so it offers them flexibility whereby they can deliver their own local promotions in store instead of just having to adhere to the national promotions. The programme is an extra support mechanism that we can deliver for our retailers.”
Cotter’s verdict on this service is highly positive. “Definitely it is useful,” he says. “I would go on to that website seven times a week. It means you can receive updates from HR which are very beneficial, and it saves you time having to source independent HR information.” This viewpoint confirms Corcoran’s observation that Daybreak “is not just popping in and out of the shop briefly, we’re very much a partnership and we’ll support the retailers as much as they need.”

A sterling team effort

As well as Cotter having a diverse range of experience in all aspects of the business, the two stores also benefit from having an experienced and loyal team of staff, with eight employees based at each store. In fact, according to the retailer, four staff members have been with him since he first opened the doors of his Washington Street store, with several employees at the Grand Parade Daybreak also having been with the shop since it opened four years ago. Speaking to ShelfLife, one member of the team, Maja Wisniewska, who has been working with the group since last November, said she enjoyed working there as the shops have a “good atmosphere”. Training is also an important aspect of retailing for Cotter who manages both stores himself and has supervisors based at each of his stores, which he “flits between seven times a day.” On top of being fully HACCP trained, Cotter notes: “We try to organise training at least once a year for all staff to partake in”. 

Promotions pack a punch

Alongside aiming to please customers through providing friendly and accommodating service, the store is also doing its best to provide shoppers with competitive prices. As Cotter sagely comments: “The customer is looking for value for money now and the first thing that everybody checks is the price. We’re very price conscious and very competitive. We’re trying to do a lot of offers and again being with the Daybreak group is helping us in that regard; every 28 days there’s new promotions and they’re working well for us.”
Corcoran adds that Daybreak constantly provides new offers for retailers with 13 promotional cycles throughout the year. What’s more, the group remains firmly focused on delivering promotions on well-known brands that customers actively want, such as selling Wheatabix for €2, which will subsequently drive sales. Cotter confirms that this strategy is effective, noting: “Since I started doing the promotions, I’ve seen a lift in a lot of the categories, which would have been quite poor actually in the past so they certainly do work”. 

Introducing Daily Basics range

Although Daybreak’s promotional focus concentrates on highlighting the value available on ‘big brand’ offerings, the group also has imminent plans in the pipeline to expand its own brand goods. As Corcoran explains, the symbol group currently has a limited number of own brand products such as Daybreak milk, which has proved “very successful” since it first launched over a year and a half ago. The group now has plans to launch a new private label range this month called Daily Basics. Corcoran explains: “This will be a value brand, and we’ll be launching 18 SKUs. SuperValu has the range already at the moment; it’s going to be a Musgrave value brand that will be sold only in SuperValu, Centra and Daybreak. The price is going to be the same across the three groups. It represents very keen pricing and it’s very apt for today’s market; we’re very hopeful that it will be successful for us, it’ll be a real point of difference.”

Never standing still

A focus on value certainly seems to be drawing customers into the popular city centre stores, which gain a lot of trade from the various offices and businesses in the locality. With the two shops benefiting from consistently high footfall, Cotter says he has no plans to renovate the stores again in the immediate future and that “they should be good now for at least three years, if kept well maintained”. That said; the entire team are keen to keep constantly improving the store’s promotions and standards. As Cotter adds: “We’re tweaking some things. If you stand still, it’ll fall down so you’ve got to keep working on new ideas and keep driving business forwards”. 


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