Kinvara, Co Galway, is a hot spot for tourists which means the local Londis Plus is in pole position to be a destination store for all their and the locals' needs.
8 July 2009 | 0
The tourist trade in Kinvara is heating up nicely along with the country’s recently rediscovered sunshine, according to local Londis Plus store manager Paul Greaney.
The town, which lies at the head of Kinvara Bay, is one of Ireland’s most idyllic holiday spots and as Greaney notes, “is on the tourist trail of Clare, so it pays to have tourist ranges.”
For this reason Kinvara’s Londis Plus stocks an extensive range of holiday accessories, including everything from seaside toys to surfboards. In fact, says Greany, the store’s holiday and leisure range was “decimated” over the last bank holiday on account of the good weather; “I even saw one woman coming along for some fishing rods,” he adds, affirming the strength of the trade that’s out there. And more to the point, “if you don’t have it, somebody else is going to pick it up.”
Allocating space to such seasonal footfall generators is not a problem for this ample store. The local residents of Kinvara are well-served by the easy-to-browse supermarket which was first established in 1983, and extended from 2,500 sq ft to its current area of 10,000 sq ft, in two phases between August 2008 and May of this year.
Roller skates and sat-navs
The extension represented a dramatic change according to Greaney: “We’re able to carry more lines, we’re able to carry more of what people are looking for and that’s one of the major pluses,” he explains. Customer response so far has been very positive, despite, Greaney laughs, “the initial shock of going from something small into ‘oh, we need roller skates, we need sat-navs.’” And doubling the amount of items the store can carry has led to impressive sales results. “In some departments, we’ve seen a 30% to 40% sales increase, and overall, we’re getting about 20% extra.”
He adds, however: “Unfortunately, the recession hasn’t helped and there’s a lot more competition…You’ve two more shops in Kinvara, Gort is only 20 minutes away, Galway’s not far, Oranmore is only 20 minutes away. People are travelling and they’re prepared to travel so you have to have the goods and the pricing.”
On the other hand, he points out that buyers are increasingly coming on board as well, “so it’s the customer that’s benefiting all the time and people are seeing value for money.” In fact, the store has dedicated a full wall to promotions, which Greaney says change every two to three weeks. “In fruit and veg, you’d have nine or 10 promotions at any one time, in meat you’d have two or three, at the deli you’d have one or two and the bread promotions are ongoing all the time, so there really is more value.”
The consumer wins
In fact, Greaney notes that in the off-licence section, “the amount of special offers that’s coming in compared to the last couple of years is just phenomenal and every supplier is trying to outdo the next. So the consumer is the winner again.”
The Kinvara store stocks approximately 300 wines, including those “right up to the top bracket” bottles for which there is some demand locally, “so you have to have them there,” says Greaney. He has also observed that as well as offering “good wines at good prices, wines at €5.99 and €6.99 that customers want,” the store now offers more choice. “Where before you might have had two or three countries, now we have a wide variety.”
Furthermore, the voluntary alcohol sales code has actually worked rather well for the store. “Where it’s positioned now, people can spend time in it and that’s the beauty of it, so no complaints so far.” In keeping with this optimistic outlook he adds that in general “people are looking for more and we’ll try and source it if we can.” To this end he believes that while value is crucial in the current economic climate, customers are nevertheless prepared to pay a little more for quality, organic produce. “Organic wine sales would be up around 20%,” he says. “That was confirmed this week. We started three weeks ago and there is a demand there. It is a little bit more expensive but for a good product people will pay it.”
The biggest problem he has encountered when it comes to organic therefore, is not finding customers prepared to pay a premium for it, but “trying to source it from suppliers.” Finding Irish growers with the capacity to supply the store can prove a challenge; “There are Irish growers there but any big one has already been tied up, so we’re pushing through Total Produce in Galway to find a source for us.”
The infamous Irish weather also creates difficulties surrounding availability of course. Greaney notes: “From December to June you’re caught in a catch-22 where it’s imported, unfortunately, and that’s it. But there is a market there for Irish produce.” In saying that, the Kinvara store carries a good range of local produce, carrying goods from local producers such as Foods of Athenry. And not only does it source all meat locally, it even has its own slaughterhouse.
Also, at the time of ShelfLife’s interview, the store had introduced an organic range the day before, and initial reaction had proved favourable. “It’s a local man that’s supplying us and it’s working very well, as you would have the clientele for it in Kinvara.” Of the two items currently in stock, broccoli and sugar snap peas, the organic broccoli is moving well, according to Greaney, and there are already plans to expand the range to include organic carrots later on. In addition, Kinvara’s Londis Plus also carries potatoes, carrots, apples and kiwis from local supplier Fyffes, in Galway.
The product is right
Warming to his theme, Greaney adds on the subject of organic produce: “There is a demand there and you’re talking about maybe a difference of a euro between the normal potato and the organic potato, and people are willing to buy it. Even the apples would be €1.30 more expensive but the taste and quality would be there and that’s the difference.” Greaney notes that organic prices have come down in recent times, but thankfully, “we have that attitude in Kinvara that once the product is right they will buy it.”
However, while this perception exists and the store’s range of organic products, such as Bunalun juices and rice cakes, is also performing well, Greaney is conscientious when it comes to securing a good deal for customers. In fact he describes this as one of his favourite parts of the job and says the “wheeling and dealing” aspect of retailing with various reps is “where the enjoyment is.”
Since Greaney, who hails from north Galway, started working with John Burke in October, he has realised Burke’s decision to expand the store was a wise one. “In hindsight you see the village needs it and it will work out in times to come; it was good vision.” While the Burkes are a well established family in Kinvara, and John Burke has accumulated much experience in the meat wholesaling and supermarket trade, Greaney believes that he himself first caught the grocery bug through his aunt who owned a shop in Aughnacloy. He first started working in Quinnsworth at the age of 21 and stayed there for five years, before later working in Centra in Claremorris and Supervalu in Killarney.
So what lessons has Greaney learnt throughout this time? The main one, he says, is that in retailing you need to keep learning all the time. “I always say the day you stop learning is the day you’re going to give up; there’s always something you have to learn, there’s always somebody doing something different. You have to change with the times and be diverse.”
And because, he adds, Kinvara’s population includes French, German, American and English who have decided to make it their home, there is always a demand for something different. The store has already included 15 extra lines to its fruit and veg range including asparagus, aubergines and fennel, and foreign beers perform well too. So with such a hive of diversity, it seems the store’s team of hard working, flexible staff is destined to be kept on their toes.
Burke’s Londis Plus
Store manager: Paul Greaney
Size: 10,000 sq ft