In with the new
Padraig Concannon hasn't looked back since switching to Daybreak last year. CAROLINE BYRNE met the retailer to learn the value of new concepts and old wisdom
13 August 2009
Concannon’s Daybreak Ballinasloe
Owner: Padraig Concannon
Size: 1,800 sq ft
Concannon’s Daybreak in Brakernagh, Ballinasloe, is one of the group’s new look stores, having converted to the Daybreak banner last November around the same time as the new branding was launched. The fresh, modern image more befitting of where Irish communities are now, and concepts more in tune with current demands, have proven to be the right fit for retailer Padraig Concannon.
“I thought that the new concept was very suitable for my type of business. We have such a mix, and with the fit-out, it’s geared towards what I want to do,” he says, as we chat with Daybreak territory manager Colm Dolan and Musgrave marketing executive Robert Corcoran.
The switch to Daybreak came at just the right time for Concannon too, as he realised last year the importance of investing in his store to see it through this next chapter of its life. After 20 years in business on the site, making the switch to Musgrave has led to a significant change in focus, as well as great improvements to the bottom line, which in turn has left Concannon very satisfied with his decision.
“I find them very professional, they drive the business and that’s a big difference,” he says. “They’re very concerned with your profitability, and there’s no point in doing all these promotions if we don’t get the mix right. They literally transformed the shop. There’s a better mix and the proportions are right.”
Thanks to the revamp, Concannon’s offering is now better designed to capture more spend and generate more margin this year than it was the previous year. According to Colm Dolan, the team re-focused the store on “areas that drive the bottom line,” such as impulse, food-to-go, and coffee. “We’ve given them the right range and the right space in the store, so that customers coming in are going to see a better range. And those are the departments that generate margin in the store.
“We moved the coffee from the back of the store up to the front, as that’s the biggest margin provider, in terms of percentage margin. So by moving it you get better access, all customers coming into the shop have to pass it.”
Likewise, the new layout dedicates the correct space for confectionery and includes a better range, and similarly gives greater participation to minerals. “We gave more space to impulse minerals, an extra four foot to what he had previously,” says Dolan.
Grocery participation was not sacrificed during the revamp however, while still affording better accommodation of key departments. “Everything now is tied in close,” Dolan explains, “when we first came in everything was dispersed all over the place. The beer was in a couple of different fridges. We looked at the areas that weren’t performing that well and aren’t performing in the convenience market in general, like frozen food, for example. So we took out the big freezer and put in a small one, and now he has the right range and sales have actually increased rather than decreased from what they were.”
Crucially, Dolan adds: “Stockholding has been reduced, while margin and cash flow has increased.”
New store, new concepts
As Concannon recognised initially, the new Daybreak formula has proved to be a perfect fit for his type of store and customer base. Its branding and concepts are the result of a year and half in development between Musgrave and consultants Interbrand, who examined the essence of the rural-based brand and discovered how best to update it for its core audience.
In addition to a fresh new image, with new signage and accompanying point of sale and suite of in-store graphics, the new look Daybreak sports a range of new food concepts designed to meet the different needs of today’s convenience shopper.
Many of these centre on food-to-go, and include updated breakfast and sandwich concepts for the deli, as well as juices, smoothies and other healthy options. “It’s offering the consumer something different, a new type of product,” explains Dolan. “It’s a hot sandwich or a cold sandwich with a twist, and we’re also looking at the healthy market, with the breakfast pots, and smoothies and juices. People have become a lot more health conscious.”
In addition, the new food-to-go offering has hot and cold meal replacement solutions, including prepared meals that can be reheated, aimed at drawing new customers to the deli counter. “Your traditional hot food customer was the construction worker, but now we’re looking to target different people and households too.”
This is an important departure for the Daybreak offer, in that its food concepts, and promotional activity around same, do not just target high-end deli customers but the basket shoppers also.
Promotion and communication: driving the business
Promotions are undoubtedly a key component of business, and for attracting customers to new areas of the store’s offer. In total there are 13 promotional cycles a year for the Daybreak group, a key constituent of which is the two to three ‘double deals’ on complimentary pairs of grocery items, such as ‘beans on toast’ (sliced pan and tin of beans for E1.59), or Surf washing powder and Comfort fabric softener.
Every cycle also includes a deli promotion, such as a free mineral and sandwich deal, or a free coffee with a breakfast roll. And these offers have been specially tailored to stimulate local trade, following a marketing plan for Concannon’s own food-to-go business.
The store can tap into lunchtime trade from neighbouring offices, and with Portiuncula Hospital situated just down the road, and two housing estates at either side, there’s a potential steady stream of mixed shoppers every day.
There’s also a lot of competition, running the full gamut from fellow convenience outlets to discounters and major multiples, all in Ballinasloe. So communication is key for reinforcing the value message with Concannon’s local customers.
In addition to all the in-store POS and posters, Daybreak offers retailers a marketing tool-kit in order to put together their own materials to link in with national campaigns and messaging. The store also runs local leaflet drops throughout the year, and all of this is supported by substantial above-the-line communication, including a national radio campaign.
The ability to run regular special offers on grocery and targeted deals on food-to-go has proved vital for retailers like Concannon to be able to compete, and underscores the essential need to be part of a group this year. “It really highlights the power of Musgrave,” says Concannon, who adds that he has received very positive feedback from customers about the promotions, particularly the ‘double deals,’ and has seen repeat visits on the strength of them.
In addition, being part of the group and having access to a network of retailers like himself – through schemes such as the retailer workshops – creates an alliance for small businesses, which Concannon says is helpful and a particular comfort this year.
Meeting local needs
Most important for a neighbourhood store like Concannon’s Daybreak in Ballinasloe however, is keeping in tune with the needs of local customers and differentiating by providing excellent service. Recession or no recession, expectations remain high and retailers have to work even harder to win trade.
“Our focus is still providing solutions that people want. People still want a good service and that’s what we aim to provide to our local community. We know our custom
ers and they know us. They know me, they know the girls on the deli.”
Concannon believes in making this personal connection with his local customers so as to ensure the relevance of his store to the community, whatever the climate. “I try to pass this on to my staff and I lead by example in the store,” he says.
To his mind, the convenience business is as much about providing a service as it is about providing affordable food. Concannon understands that, as a local retailer, if you look after your customers and give them what they need, the good will it generates is more valuable than advertising.
“We really concentrate on customer service. There are a lot of older and retired people across that road, so we’ll deliver their paper, whatever they want we’ll get it to them, and they really appreciate it. Sometimes advertising isn’t as good as word of mouth, especially with that generation.”
Meeting the needs of local customers may not always be the easiest task to figure out or execute, and it may be difficult to quantify the benefits of doing so. But as Feargal Quinn once pointed out, you’ll realise you’ve done a good job when the customers come to you, and that’s what it’s all about really.
As for Padraig Concannon, with over two decades behind him in this business, he doesn’t appear too worried for the future. He points to the fact that being by-passed and becoming within less than a half an hour’s reach of Athlone and Galway actually potentially creates opportunity for businesses, as Ballinasloe becomes an expanding commuter town.
Above all, Concannon is doing what he wants to do. He has a business that is prepared for the market he’s in, and the experience to know intuitively how to connect with the customers available. And most importantly, he says: “I enjoy this business, everyday there’s a new challenge, it’s something different.”