On top of the world

Terry and Sieglinde Murphy and the staff at Rochestown Centra celebrate winning the 2012 Insight NACS International Convenience Retailer of the Year Award
Terry and Sieglinde Murphy and the staff at Rochestown Centra celebrate winning the 2012 Insight NACS International Convenience Retailer of the Year Award

The Insight NACS International Convenience Retailer of the Year Award has again found its way to Irish shores, with Centra Rochestown, Co Cork, receiving the prestigous title



16 November 2012

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Centra Rochestown beat off stiff competition from some of the world’s most innovative convenience stores to win the international convenience retailer award. The award was presented during the Insight NACS Future of Convenience event in London at the end of September having been adjudicated by a panel of international judges. The global awards recognise excellence in convenience retailing and shortlisted stores are evaluated on a range of criteria such as the range available, layout of the store, customer service, people development, corporate social responsibility, technology and results.

Murphy and his wife Sieglinde were encouraged to enter the competition by Musgrave but had little confidence in their chances.

Murphy explains: "We felt that the fact that it has been won in Ireland for the last two years, that it wouldn’t happen here again. I knew last year’s winner was from Cashel, so I felt that it definitely wasn’t going to stay in Ireland."

Murphy believed there was strong competition from Spar in the UK, Statoil in Norway and Tesco in California. "There was a fine Spar in the UK that had already won Convenience Store of the Year in the UK and it looked very impressive. And there were the latest concept stores from Statoil in Norway, and a Tesco in California with a whole new concept for America. It was very much along the lines of a Centra as opposed to the normal convenience stores in America which are 7/11. So the competition was good."

However he was able to pinpoint a certain element to his store that was not so prevalent in others. 

"I felt that the one thing that made us different from all the others was the local element. None of the others seemed to have that." 

A group of international judges picked six stores for the final and then the decision was opened to a public vote. Suppliers or other shop owners could nominate the store they wanted to win via the website. 

Night of the awards

The awards took place in London on 26 September yet Murphy says that the dust hasn’t settled yet. "We’re going to blow our trumpet for a while and take full advantage of it. We’ve filled the store with point of sale signs to let people know. There were a few pictures in the local paper and the amount of people who saw it and came in to congratulate us was amazing. It was great for the gang here as well because you know you come to work every day and do your bit and we like to think that we go the extra mile but it’s nice to get that accolade and be part of something that’s recognised as being the best."

Murphy talked to some of the judges on the night and they told him that the voting had been very tight but they also felt that the local element was something unique and they were commended for their involvement in the community, their support of local producers and also for their support of  charities and local sports, particularly the GAA.

"I suppose our offering would be completely different to a traditional forecourt store. You can come in here and buy your Sunday lunch or your dinner. You can get anything from a roast to a pre-cooked dinner to a chicken or whatever groceries you need."

Murphy says that they like to support local as best they can. "The vast majority of our employees would be living within a five mile radius and we support any local suppliers in so far as possible. We are inundated with requests for support from many different charities but we do give priority to local. We’re the main sponsor for Rochestown College Football team which is a three year deal where we supply them with their kit and training facilities when they need to go away for special training. It’s nice to help out because these are the people that are coming into us every day. Any of the other clubs that come along looking for money, we try to support. We have given money to Passage West Soccer club and Passage GAA. We do a bit across the board."

There are many local suppliers’ products visible around the store. Some of these include Finders Inn, a supplier of ready meals and soups, and Blue Haven, a supplier of soups, fish pies and chowders. There are also a number of local bakeries that supply the shop. "Our bakery is only a semi-scratch so we only do non-yeast breads, browns health loaves and a full range of cakes so it’s not hard for us to support local bakers."

There are 47 employees and Murphy says that they are slightly over staffed but he does this to ensure that his customers do not have to wait in queues to be served. 

"At times when it’s busy, staff at the till can ring a bell to call another member of staff from the floor onto a till to keep things ticking over. While people may be willing to stand in line elsewhere, they give you the impression that they’re not willing to do so here."

Keeping standards high

A win such as this places a certain amount of pressure on Murphy and his staff to maintain the high standards going forward. 
"The problem now is that you walk around the shop and see things out of place and you cringe because you can’t be the top international convenience store and have things wrong or missing. It puts a certain amount of pressure on us to maintain what we have and deliver all the time," says Murphy.

"There are 14/15,000 people a week going through the doors so it’s a lot of footfall. We are constantly on the lookout for slippage or something that is wearing out. You want to keep your game up all the time and make sure that anybody coming into the store sees it as a new store."


From cars to convenience

A huge renovation took place on this store about 15 months ago but the original business has been in existence since 1998. Before the store was established Murphy operated a car business on the same site. He wound this up when the recession hit as the car business was particularly heavily hit in the downturn. Instead he turned all his attention to the running of the store.

He says that the challenge of running the store changed dramatically with the change in store size when it went from 1,600 to 5,000 sq ft last year. "That challenged and tested everyone. I look after the environment in which the store operates. I’m the outer shell and the staff are the inner core. I am supporting them in what they are doing really well. We have a very good manager, Mary McGroarty, who really looks after the business as if it were her own. We are very lucky to have someone like that."


The current environment

Murphy thinks that despite their success, business is getting more and more difficult as time goes by. "You can just see that people are watching every cent and are very guarded in their choices. If new ideas and products are not very competitive price wise, no matter what they are people aren’t going to buy them. We are really watching everything and you can see what sells and what doesn’t. Offers across the store would be very, very strong the last couple of years and that’s very much down to Musgrave. The group has a very strong offering with value at the core of it. We’re lucky that we can display value now and show it off all over the store on our ends and make products visible. People are coming with the handbill in their hands and ticking off the products as they go."

He says that at one point people were willing to pay a premium for convenience but not anymore. "We were cash rich and time poor but that’s no longer the case. We have to bring it to a place where the consumer doesn’t feel guilty about coming in and buying items." The Murphys use the extra space they inherited from the renovation to show off the value in-store.


Since the win there has been a great deal of goodwill from the local community and all at Centra. "We are having a bit of a do next week to celebrate. It’s not every day you can call yourself best in the world!"

Musgrave is also delighted that one of its stores has been named as the best international c-store. Martin Kelleher, managing director of Centra, said: "We are so delighted and proud of Centra Rochestown for winning what is one of the most prestigious awards in retailing globally. We would like to applaud and congratulate Terry and Sieglinde Murphy and their team at Centra Rochestown for winning what is a well-deserved award and setting the bar in convenience retailing in Ireland."




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