MACE: Q&A with Daniel O’Connell, sales director

Mace's success in the fresh space comes from understanding the changing needs of consumers combined with an unwillingness to sacrifice convenience in order to cater to those needs.

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26 August 2019 | 0

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

Mace has been a part of the community in Ireland for almost 60 years. As a result, understanding our local customers is central to each and every business. Many of the Mace stores have been owned by generations of the same family and are well established in their local community. The shoppers in those communities continue to evolve as the Mace offering is also evolving in what we offer in our stores e.g. a broader mix of healthier foods and drinks under the banner of Mace Right Options. Mace is a convenience retailer that promotes a proposition of ‘Going the extra smile’, based on the fact that consumer research found Mace is the standout retailer when it comes to valuing its customers. That means customers are greeted with a friendly ‘hello’, a smile and a ‘thank you’; each store owner makes sure the right range of products are stocked to meet local shoppers’ needs; store layout is designed and planned to make shopping enjoyable and easy.

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?

Mace retailers are serviced by BWG Foods’ state-of the-art National Distribution Centre (NDC) in Kilcarbery, Co. Dublin. Our retailers also work with many local producers in their areas, which is seen as a real positive by local shoppers in the communities in which they operate. In addition, the fresh food offering at Mace has been a keen focus as part of the strategic direction for the brand. Our bespoke ‘For Food’s Sake’ Deli, which offers a diverse range of breakfast, lunch and evening foods, has been an investment in the brand. Coupled with our Mace Right Options programme, we also offer our customers healthy options with no compromise on quality.

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?

Irish consumers are more discerning about what foods they consume, but they are not willing to sacrifice convenience in this space. They want fresh, flavoursome food available all day and with Ireland at near full employment, consumers are more discerning around their dining options and where they shop. People are consuming food out of the home on a more frequent basis and capitalising on this area is something Mace is actively pursuing.

Healthier options in convenience are also a big priority for shoppers now. People are actively watching what they are eating. Mace has experienced a strong upswing in the demand for fresh and healthy meal options for various times of the day and as a result we have developed our bespoke ‘Fresh to Go’ ranges of pre-prepared foods, plus a wide variety of ranges for our exclusive ‘For Food’s Sake’ deli. This premium deli offers gourmet fresh food and is perfectly complemented by our Mace Right Options offering of healthier options.

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?

Unfortunately we live in a litigious society which has had a profound impact on businesses across the country, particularly those in the retail, foodservice and hospitality sectors. While the personal injury regime is a major challenge, it was very positive to recently see some judges speak publicly about these false
claims. We need reform, urgently, because the system is currently broken and is placing an unfair burden on retailers who are making positive contributions to the economy.

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?

One of the main challenges for our retailers is around staff recruitment and staff retention, especially in an Ireland near full employment. We work very closely with all our Mace retailers in this regard. In retailing, we can be sure that change is a constant in the food retailing industry in Ireland. Consumer choice continues to expand as more players enter the market. From a Mace perspective, we view this as an opportunity to drive the popularity of the brand and to build on the brand essence to appeal to existing shoppers and to attract new shoppers into our stores through our wide offering. Standing out in a busy marketplace is a challenge so Mace has partnered with one of Ireland’s most respected and high profile sporting heroes, rugby star Johnny Sexton, as our brand ambassador. At a broader level, Brexit poses a number of challenges to the retail sector however the actual impact is still to be determined. And, of course, the effect of Brexit and the uncertainty surrounding it has been well documented.

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