Offering more in Oranmore

Store owner Martin Mannion has operated the unit for the last 13 years in Oranmore Shopping Centre
Store owner Martin Mannion has operated the unit for the last 13 years in Oranmore Shopping Centre

Mannion's Newsagents in Oranmore Shopping Centre has recently joined the new group Day Today News. The brand is aimed at small, independent retailers and is run by the Musgrave Group. Fiona Donnellan visited the newly branded store to discover how it's working out.



14 May 2013

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Mannion’s Day Today News, Oranmore, Co. Galway
Owner: Martin Mannion
Size: 600 sq ft
Staff: Six – full and part-time

Martin Mannion has over 30 years’ experience in the retail trade. The Monivea native spent 20 years working for Eason’s, both directly and indirectly, before opening his own unit in the Oranmore Shopping Centre in 2000. The 600 sq ft unit offers newspapers, confectionery, greeting cards and other add-ons including Lotto and phone credit. This niche market is complimented by the anchor store in the shopping centre; SuperValu, which doesn’t sell newspapers or Lotto so footfall from the supermarket provides much of Mannion’s customer base.

A new opportunity

Mannion joined the Day Today News group late last year. The new brand, part of the Musgrave group, is aimed at small newsagency retailers who want the security of being part of a symbol group while still keeping their independence and name above the door. Given the tough economic conditions for retailers across the country, the move made sense to Mannion: "We had always dealt with Musgrave’s as our cash and carry supplier and following several conversations with Kieran Niland and others it made sense. The idea of central billing came up and the Day Today News brand seemed to make sense for us and the unit. Musgrave’s is very supportive and so far, so good."

Rebranding the store was not a large job, involving a redesign of the layout and painting the unit. Mannion says it didn’t cause any major disruption: "It’s basically as it was before. We did a paint job, bits and pieces, it was mostly cosmetic. We didn’t have to close which was good. We changed the layout a little bit; we had the pick ‘n’ mix in the centre of the unit so we moved that and put in a small aisle. Little things like that." The branding of the Day Today group definitely stands out against the white backdrop of the shopping centre. The bright orange gives the unit a bright, airy feel and the layout makes it look bigger than it is.

An independent group

The Day Today News brand is a relatively new one. Created by Musgrave’s for small, independent news retailers, the group has approximately 30 retailers across the country. The brand has been in operation for a year and a half. Kieran Niland, business development manager with Musgrave’s says it offers the best of both worlds for small retailers. "Day Today News is a fairly new brand from our perspective. We have approximately 30 stores nationwide and it’s growing and there are plans for it to grow and develop. The key difference with it is that it’s giving independent retailers like Martin the opportunity to become part of a group. Most of the retailers would have already had a relationship with Musgrave’s through the cash and carry side of things, it’s opening those customers up to the likes of delivered and central billing and they don’t necessarily have to call to the cash and carry now to get their stock. It’s more convenient and it’s also making a value-for-money statement within the store."

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) is working with Musgrave’s on the Day Today News brand. Deirdre Drennan, trading and public affairs manager, says the new group is a great fit for small independent newsagents. "The reason we started working with the brand is that it’s a good fit for our members who want to retain the traditional newsagents concept but at the same time have the benefit of the support of a bigger organisation that can help with the purchasing, the category management and the layout; basically just look at the store with fresh eyes. We support traditional newsagents who want to develop the core ranges of sweets, confectionery, news, lotto, tobacco and this was a good fit for that."

One major advantage to joining the Day Today News brand for Mannion was keeping his independence and his name above the door. Drennan says that’s essential for a lot of the NFRN members: "One of the key things we found from talking to our members was that they didn’t feel like they were giving up their identity, it’s not like the other brands where you’re tied into very strict purchasing terms. You can still have your name over the door and that really matters to a lot of retailers."

Letting the figures talk

Mannion is happy with the partnership and welcomes the support and advice that joining a symbol group brings to the table. Customers have reacted positively to the change in the shop’s appearance and sales in confectionary have increased. "We do better in our confectionery than we were doing because of the layout. Our phone card sales would still be falling but we’ve actually improved out confectionery sales so it’s a little positive. We do find that generally the trade has fallen off; cigarettes are down, phone card sales, Lotto sales; almost everything. The fact that we’re getting increased confectionery sales and the margins are okay is a real positive."

The support and knowledge from Musgrave’s for the small independent retailer has played its part in the success of the partnership. Mannion says before he joined the Day Today News group, he wouldn’t have been able to run promotions. "The Day Today brand has given us focus and given us the prices so that we can do the promotions first of all. The focus and the structure to the value offers have been very good and Day Today compliments our trade, coming from a news point of view, rather than a small supermarket. Our focus has always been news, stationery, Lotto, that kind of thing so it compliments that."

Surviving the recession

Falling sales are a reality small retailers across the country are facing as the economy continues to struggle. Mannion’s unit is dependent on SuperValu footfall for its business. The shop matches the opening hours of SuperValu and is open seven days a week. "The shop is driven by SuperValu footfall, if they have a bad week then we have a bad week, it’s linked," says the retailer. "We do have local trade as well; it would be a destination for news for some people. Not a lot of tourist trade, it’s mostly people living in Oranmore, community based."

Mannion has been in business throughout the years of both the boom and the bust. "For the first six or seven years it was very easy, we had constant growth, the population was growing in Oranmore at the time and year-on-year we had growth of 10%-15% each year. From October 2007 we began to notice the change, the fall off. Our figures would be something like 67% – 68% of what we were doing at the peak but like all other businesses we’ve been forced to cut our overheads and do things differently."


Due to the lease agreements of the shopping centre, there are restrictions on what lines Mannion can carry in his store. The store is not allowed to serve hot food or deli products although in turn, SuperValu also has restrictions. "SuperValu can’t do news, it doesn’t do Lotto or cards so we have our core business protected. We have our niche market. If that hadn’t been the case, I’d say we probably would have closed the doors at this stage." Mannion says the late opening hours ensure that the commuter population of the town comes into the store. "We always found that we could actually sell newspapers up until 9 o’clock at night. There’d be people coming home in the evening, maybe 8 o’clock and they’d come in and get The Times or The Independent, the broadsheets will sell in the evening. A lot of our trade would be from half five onwards in the evening."

Value message

With customers watching their spending habits, impulse buying is essential to keeping the doors open. Mannion says customers expect the value offer: "Everywhere you go, people want to see a value offer, at least one value offer if not more. People want value, it didn’t matter as much before, it does now." Since joining the Day Today News brand, Mannion takes part in 13 promotions per year, one every four weeks. Kieran Niland of Musgrave’s says the store gets invaluable support to run the offers. "The store would get point-of-sale support for those promotions. They are primarily on impulse lines so there’s always a confectionery offer, whether it’s impulse or take home, there’s always a soft drink offer so it’s hitting those key areas. We see the brand as being the only brand in Ireland that offers that uniqueness in newsagents and stationery retailers. It’s leveraging the buying power of Musgrave’s but also sharing knowledge, having that combined collective where they can share experience and knowledge together. It’s an extra layer of support."

Niland says they put a queue system in place in the store to boost confectionary sales. "It got the attention of the customers, rather than having the bags at the back of the counter, they’re now in front. It’s an opportunity for the customer and it means Martin is able to show a bigger range as well. It’s not in their faces, it’s not invasive, and it’s hitting them at a lower level."

What the future holds

With the sale of the Lotto licence due to take place this year, retailers are watching developments closely. Mannion says he’s confident that his margins will be protected when the sale happens: "From the assurances I’ve heard, it doesn’t look like things will change too much, I hope they won’t." The unit has stood strong for 13 years and has survived nearly six years of recession. Mannion has done all he can to ensure the store remains open and has moved with the times. For now, he’s happy with how the store is performing and is waiting patiently for an improvement in the economy: "At the moment, we’re doing what we can do although we are limited in that. It’s a case of just keeping the doors open and waiting for the upturn. I think it’s coming slowly. If eventually we do get an improvement, we’re going to be pretty well placed so we’re just trying to see the recession out."





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