GALA: Q&A with Gary Desmond, CEO, Gala Retail

Gala recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with a year-long series of events and initiatives; now it's time to look towards the next 20 years


Brand Central

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26 August 2019

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What are the main values that your symbol group channels through its retailers and their stores?

Modern, fresh and community retailing is what Gala Retail is all about. For the Gala Group and its retailers, community is at the heart of our values. We work with retailers to deliver innovative and customer-focused retailing from our network of Gala stores to thousands of Gala shoppers every day. Gala’s values remain the same today as when the group was first formed in 1998: Irishness, community, innovation and excellence in retailing. Gala stores are owned locally and are supported by the strength and expertise of local wholesalers and Gala HQ. Our retailers tailor their stores to meet the needs of their local community, and it’s this winning formula that has been delivering for our stores over the past 20 years.

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?

Having access to a local wholesaler network has always been a big draw in terms of attracting retailers to the Gala Group. Gala has a network of wholesalers operating throughout Ireland that ensure stores are supplied with all category needs as well as offering support and advice to retailers. In addition to this, our chilled distribution model ensures our retailers have access to the ranges that customers want. This has dramatically changed their business in terms of stock availability, frequency of deliveries, product offering and promotions.

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?

In recent years, there have been fundamental changes to the way that consumers conduct grocery shopping. Consumer behaviour has changed; where once people would have dedicated time to doing a ‘big’ shop in a supermarket, the modern consumer is inclined to buy less but more frequently, calling into local shops to pick up fresh ingredients daily. More and more shelf space has been dedicated to fresh offerings and the Gala Group has introduced four key in-store concepts to meet changing consumer demands: Baker’s Corner, Coffee Junction and the group’s latest concepts, New Street Deli and Galato, a chilled dessert offering ice-cream, milkshakes and desserts with a twist.

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?

There are many challenges facing our retailers, insurance premiums being one of them. Gala along with the other groups is playing our part in ensuring a fair deal for everyone is arrived at.

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?

Operating in Ireland, which has one of the most competitive grocery markets in Europe, symbol groups face many challenges. The retail environment is continually evolving; the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and its impact continues to loom over the sector, with no clear idea of how it will impact on product costs or pricing. For retailers, the concerns surround rising commercial rates and identifying ways to stay at the forefront of convenience retailing in a competitive market. As a group, we continue to look at what we can do for retailers to help them streamline margins and increase profitability, offering supports and services to assist. Gala concepts such as Baker’s Corner and Coffee Junction were joined by two new concepts in 2019, New Street Deli and Galato. These in-store concepts help retailers to increase margins, add value to their offering and enrich shoppers’ experience in a Gala store.


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