LONDIS: Q&A with Conor Hayes, sales director
With around 130 stores nationwide, Londis as a company works to operate a mutually beneficial relationship between itself and the retailers in its network, says sales director Conor Hayes
26 August 2019 | 0
What are the main values that your symbol group channels through its retailers and their stores?
At Londis, we have a unique professional, personal and mutually beneficial relationship with our retailers. It is a symbol brand that prides itself as being very much a family-orientated one, and wears that ethos as a badge of honour. Londis is about a ‘family’ philosophy that permeates through the group, our retailers and our actions. Londis retailers, their staff and the wider Londis team very much live up to the brand promise of ‘Local like You’. Our support of Pieta House and their work epitomises the values of Londis and our retailers. For example, more than 200 Londis retailers and staff recently took part in the ’Hell & Back’ adventure challenge in aid of Pieta House and our relationship with the charity is one that we are all very proud of.
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?
Londis stores are serviced by the state-of-the-art BWG National Distribution Centre (NDC) in Kilcarbery, Dublin. On a storeby-store basis, Londis retailers live the ‘Local like You’ motto and ensure that their customers have access to the freshest local produce. Through our bespoke deli offering, Londis retailers offer the best of ingredients and a diverse range of healthy and tasty food-to-go offerings for their customers. The Londis sales team works very closely with our retailers to maximise their business and provide the best service to their customers. Londis operates an open-door policy when it comes to engaging with our retailers. We encourage our retailers to approach us with any feedback, comments or concerns and we engage with them on a daily basis through a variety of mediums. We also facilitate a National Council of Londis Retailers, whereby a representative body of eight retailers represent the larger group. As part of their role as council members, they will aid in the development of the overall Londis brand strategy and policies by regularly meeting with management of BWG Foods, owners and operators of the Londis brand.
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?
Quality and freshness are what our customers have come to expect, and in this regard, we perform a regular review of our range to include innovation, food trends, seasonality and healthy offerings so our customers’ needs and desires are always catered for. Through our ‘Local like You’ ethos, we endeavour to ensure that Londis stays ahead of food trends by being at the forefront of fresh food-to-go offering. With an emphasis on good, tasty food, we are focused on offering the consumer of today a healthier and broader offering that matches their changing lifestyles. We are passionate about offering a healthy range, particularly for those customers for whom time is the new gold, they want a more nutritional meal but are not willing to sacrifice on quality or freshness.
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?
The rising cost of insurance is a major competitiveness issue for retailers. Every year, Irish retailers are hit with average increases in Employer and Public Liability insurance, despite a falling number of incidents in-store as a result of increased investment in staff training and store layout. Unless urgent reform is forthcoming, many retailers will simply be unable to meet growing premiums into the future. Tackling our inflated personal injury awards and bringing our level of awards into line with other comparable EU countries is key to reducing premiums. We endeavour to help and support our retailers in whatever way we can in this regard.
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?
There’s no escaping the spectre of Brexit as it does cast a pall over every industry in Ireland, especially with the increasing likelihood of a ‘hard Brexit’. Hopefully, wiser heads will prevail, but there is no denying it poses a significant challenge. Thankfully, Londis has a strong, proven track record in developing our retail offer to ensure that we meet the everchanging needs of consumers and tap into new trends and opportunities. The industry will always face challenges but we are confident that we are well positioned to deal with any challenges that present themselves, including the very obvious ones around increased competition in the industry and the fluctuations inherent in consumer spending power.