Looking slick in Limerick

Retailer paul Noone and BWG Foods epresentative Pat Reddan
Retailer paul Noone and BWG Foods epresentative Pat Reddan

Building on his family’s 30 years of experience in the retail trade, Paul Noone decided to revamp his Mace neighbourhood supermarket in Annacotty, Co Limerick, late last year and as Gillian Hamill found out, the sales figures generated by this bold move more than speak for themselves



14 June 2012

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Retailer paul Noone and BWG Foods epresentative Pat Reddan

Retailer paul Noone and BWG Foods epresentative Pat Reddan

A perfectionist is how retailer Paul Noone candidly describes himself, and this personality trait quickly becomes evident upon perusing his pristine Mace store. Standards were clearly not only maintained on the day of ShelfLife’s visit; indeed, the store’s sales results show it obviously impresses customers on a continual basis.

Deli sales at the busy store increased by 22% between April 2011 and April 2012, boosted by a complete revamp undertaken at the store last year. Noone attributes the growth to a clear focus on the store’s fresh foods offering, which has also given the group “an opportunity to capitalise on margin at a time when market dynamics have changed and margin is slipping”. So far this has proved to be a move that has “paid dividends.”

Abundant deli choice

Presentation is vital in Noone’s view in terms of attracting customers to his Mace’s appealing range of rolls, sandwiches, salad bowls and meat platters. “Health, quality, service and choice,” are all factors very much present at the store’s deli counter which focuses on providing options that are “convenient for a person’s lunch hour.”

After successfully achieving double-digit growth, we were curious to know if Noone would consider expanding the deli’s offering to provide more dinnertime meals. However the retailer explains that this would prove a “hard market to crack”, due to the store’s location.

Standing out from the competition

Situated in a thriving neighbourhood shopping centre in a highly residential area of Annacotty, Co Limerick, the Mace store is surrounded by two Chinese restaurants and an Italian, alongside a pub that serves all day long food and a traditional fish and chips takeaway. With so much competition in this sector, it is easy to understand why Noone’s team has sagely decided to focus on the lunchtime and quick-turnaround deli customer. 

The store has also created a unique selling point by designing its own Noone’s label for its fresh food offering. Not only is this used on the likes of its freshly made sandwich rolls and salad bowls, but it is also used for its bakery range, which has grown by 20% during the year to April 2012.

Aptly demonstrating the difference that store layout can make to sales, simply by moving the coffee and tea offering to a more prominent position at the front of the store, sales have perked up by 21%. A further impressive success story is the wine department that is up by 10% year-to-date.


Fuelling better results

Following a store revamp last year, deli sales at mace Annacotty have risen by 22% between April 2011 and April 2012

Following a store revamp last year, deli sales at mace Annacotty have risen by 22% between April 2011 and April 2012

What’s more, the Noone family have another smaller 1,100 sq ft store nearby, Mace Monaleen, which focuses on fuel sales. These have also risen by 15% over the past year. The reason for this noteworthy growth is that the diesel pump previously wasn’t included under the canopy. However by relocating it this has provided greater convenience for consumers, and the sales figures clearly show motorists have appreciated the move.

Significant changes are likewise occurring within the grocery department. Noone has observed a recession-fuelled trend that he believes is significantly benefiting his store. “Customers can no longer afford to fill the presses up because they are eager not to waste food,” says the retailer. “They are no longer going out and stocking up with a large weekly shop, but are doing a top up shop every two to three days.” He is seeing the effects of this in his grocery, fruit and vegetables and fresh meat departments, where shoppers are coming in to find something tasty for dinner for a night or two. He finds this is having “a knock-on effect on the sauces and accompaniments” cleverly displayed alongside these key categories. 

Building up experience

This level of “attention to detail” was a useful skill developed by Noone earlier in his career when he worked for Coca-Cola and was involved in merchandising for the brand. He also later worked as a sales representative for the major FMCG player within the symbol group sector.

Not surprisingly, this gave him a greater insight into the workings of successful convenience stores. However this certainly wasn’t his first foray into the retail sector as his parents had been in the business for 30 years. Indeed, the retailer has worked on a shop floor ever since the tender age of 11. Seeing his parents, PJ and Kay Noone, in action also provided him with a keen appreciation of the “tough-going long hours, commitment and dedication” that are needed in order to be successful within the fast-paced retail trade.

With this in mind, he made it a priority to “develop a very strong team” that he could rely upon, as without them, “he wouldn’t have the freedom outside of the business needed to recharge.” The retailer is keen to point out that he is extremely grateful for the hard work and effort made by all his staff. Several members of the team have been with the family business for many years, and Noone notes he has been “very fortunate” in his choice of employees as they’re what “drives [the business] forwards.”

Staff progressing through training

 Many of his staff members started off at entry-level sales assistant positions and have progressed through the company by receiving training and more knowledge in-house. The retailer says he enjoys working out an individual’s “abilities and strengths” and using that insight to match the right person with the right position.

 In this respect, he believes Mace is an excellent group to be allied with as it provides useful training initiatives. For example, Mace offers three hour long online courses which employees can complete in their own time on subjects such as “Show me ID,” which demonstrates how to correctly deal with underage alcohol customers. Staff members can then print out a certificate of achievement when they have finished the course. Noone believes this is an “important motivational tool” which gives employees the knowledge they need to do the best job possible.

Award-winning behaviour

He feels the Mace Excellence Awards are also very useful in this regard. Indeed, Mace Annacotty has received the highest possible accolade within this scheme for the past three years between 2009 and 2011. “I feel it’s very beneficial to the shop, staff and consumers, as it helps maintain standards, keeps staff motivated and ensures the customer has a positive shopping experience,” says Noone.

Friendly customer service is not the only area where the store excels however, as according to the retailer, providing value-for-money has always been a key consideration for the shop, even in a more buoyant financial climate.

Constant value offering

“From day one six years ago, we have focused in on value and have been able to match the multiples. That’s one of the strongest factors that has stood to us throughout time,” says Noone. He adds that the store currently has a high “value perception” and is “bursting with offers.” The proof of the pudding in terms of showing how successful this strategy has been is that average net spend at Mace Annacotty has risen from €5.38 to €6.91.

Noone attributes this rise to the fact this his Mace “has managed to increase sales on larger products” through offering enticing special offers on goods such as large Daz washing powders and 5 litre bottles of Comfort. While these are “not high margin” items, customers are “happy with the value” on display, which is encouraging them to loosen their purse strings and snap up these bargains while stocks last.

Community centred

As well as having a reputation for providing value, the Noone family has been very involved with the community for the past 30 years. The Noones sponsor the Monaleen GAA Club, and Aisling soccer club at Castletroy Secondary School. The group also has a number of local suppliers including Phil’s Bakery which provides tasty treats such as apple tarts and scones, Munster Soft Drinks, and a Polish bread company, which customers travel from a five mile radius to stock up from.

The challenge of turning a store around and running it to its best potential is an aspect of his job that Noone says he truly enjoys. From when he first assumed the reins of the Annacotty store six years ago (the shop was under the Vivo banner during his first three years there), the retailer notes that sales increased by 50% between 2006 and 2011.

Observing from the consumer’s perspective

 “When I walk into either shop, I try to view it as a customer would view it,” he explains. “If I feel there’s something a customer wouldn’t be happy with, I’ll fix it because I want the shopper to have the best possible shopping experience.” The retailer was no doubt influenced in this way of thinking by his father PJ, who at the time of ShelfLife’s interview had sadly passed away five weeks previously.

Paul Noone was eager to pay tribute to his father who established the business and put a great deal of hard work into ensuring it ran smoothly throughout his lifetime. Founded on the traditional principles of retailing such as putting the customer first, the business is currently progressing from strength to strength. Not least because it is ably combining a traditional stance with the modern approach increasingly demanded by customers.

Combining tradition and modernity

In fact, the store has become the first Mace to create its own private website www.maceannacotty.ie  linked to the official Mace server. Manager Marcin Wojtowicz was instrumental in creating the innovative website which presents a great deal of information about the store in an easy- to-navigate fashion, and capitalises on links to popular social networks such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. With so much effort being put into constantly presenting the store in the best possible light, its little wonder that it’s future looks extremely positive, both in virtual and actual realit













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