Retail passion and Furey
With a brand new revamp earlier this year, Spar Perrystown has cemented its position locally as the go-to shop, where shoppers can find everything they need under the one roof. Gillian Hamill spoke to store owner Kieran Furey to find out more about the positive changes the renovation has delivered for the store
15 May 2015
178-180 Whitehall Road West,
Store owners: Kieran and Barbara Furey
Size: 2,500 sq ft
An impressive revamp completed in mid-February has given Spar Perrystown a new lease of life. The bustling store which includes an in-house post office, butchery, bakery, deli and off-licence is clearly a valued part of the south Dublin suburb where it is based.
Kieran Furey, who owns the store with his wife Barbara, is delighted with the results of the renovation which first began on 5 January, and turned out to be pleasantly disruption-free. “It was brilliant,” says Furey. “We had very little disruption; we had no closures, we only closed the deli for one day.” He attributes this to strong planning by the BWG team. In fact he says: “Our regional manager Paul McGrath, he’s brilliant. Paul nearly lived with us here when they were doing the revamp…They were very, very quick, they sent in their people and Paul always had a plan for the week ahead.” This meant that all staff members knew the changes that would take place each week and could be fully prepared for these in advance.
Since completion, the retailer has already seen solid results. “Looking at the figures here from two or three days ago, every department has risen since we did the revamp and they’re all rising equally,” he says. The hot beverages category has returned strong results, with Furey noting that the store’s new Insomnia Coffee offering is up by 50% since its recent installation. The store has also changed its greetings cards supplier to Garlanna and positioned cards right at the front of the store which has resulted in this category’s sales improving by 35%. The new bakery section which is made in-store using Cuisine de France ingredients has also received a good reception from customers. “We’ve a big offering there,” says Furey, who highlights that having an in-store butcher’s “is very unusual for our size of Spar”.
Sales success across the entire store has also been driven by implementing good category management. “The team from BWG, the category management is brilliant,” says Furey. “The best-sellers, that’s what we’re looking at all the time, we’re trying to improve it all the time. I suppose in the old days we were guilty of not being as stringent on that as we are now. Now if a spot goes vacant on a shelf, that’s left there for that product to come back in. In the old days, there would have been something else put back into that space and over a period of time you deviated from the best-sellers.”
Introduction into retail
Furey is himself originally from a farming background in Edenderry, Co. Offaly, but says he has always received a warm welcome from the locals in Perrystown. “It’s a lovely quiet area, we’ve had no trouble here over the years,” he smiles. “People are great to us, we’ve always been made to feel welcome here in the 16 years that we’ve been here.”
Despite coming from farming stock, Furey’s family is now “very much involved in retail”, with brothers in the trade as well. Furey’s brother-in-law John Rushe who runs four of his own stores and is well-known within retail circles, was something of a trend-setter in this regard. “I suppose originally it was John Rushe who was into retail, he married my older sister, and then one after the other we went into it, from a farm in Edenderry.” Currently Furey’s brother Joe is a retailer in Whitechurch and another brother John “would have a few shops down the country”.
The store owner who previously worked as a butcher and still serves in the store’s butchery department today, alongside all his other roles, first started out his retail career in Superquinn. Shortly afterwards he moved to Morton’s on Dunville Avenue in Ranelagh in 1980, before working in “various different small shops” and finally for John Rushe, before he and Barbara decided to take the plunge and open their own store together 16 years ago. “It was trading under a different symbol group at the time and after a few years we changed over to Spar and from there on we’ve tried to build our trade,” he says.
Good team of people
A vital ingredient in accomplishing this growth has been the store’s team of staff. “We have a good team of people and we attribute what we have to the people,” says Furey. “Some of them were here before I came here; there’s three staff that I inherited and they’re with me 16 years, Gabriel and Rita are with me 15 years and they all are part of a team. I’m just one part of that team.” The Spar’s store manager Gabriel McKelvey who is originally from Co. Laois, heads up the team of 25 staff, who know many of their customers well and believe customer service is paramount. Furey adds that BWG’s ‘Virtual Academy’ has also proved to be an excellent resource for providing ongoing training.
The store owner himself says one of his favourite aspects of retailing is interacting with customers. “Isn’t there something new every day? You’ve a different conversation with everyone every day and just being able to give them what they want and seeing happy customers coming back is great. I suppose the biggest thrill is having someone come back and tell you [they’re satisfied]. When we did the revamp, one lady came in and she said, ‘I love your store. The thing I love about it most is I can get everything I want here now, I don’t have to go anywhere else. That’s the best part about it, along with your prices’.” Overall, the revamp has received an extremely positive reaction from customers, particularly the wood finishing. “That has got a huge reaction,” says Furey, who notes, “It’s different”.
Delivering the best possible offer
Located in a highly residential area, the retailer notes: “We wouldn’t have a big office trade for sandwiches but we’ve a steady trade. We’ve got some schools, more Wednesday and Friday than any other day it seems to be, maybe it’s the half-day Wednesday and then they finish on Friday.” He sees his main competitors as the Dunnes Stores in the nearby Ashleaf Shopping Centre and the off-licence next door. Overall however, he believes it’s more important to focus on doing everything as well as they possibly can in-house rather than being too concerned about what the competition are doing. “We don’t look at what’s outside,” he says. “We look at what we have to offer. We just try and do as best as we possibly can for people.”
When asked if he would consider opening another store, at first he responds, “No, I’m happy enough,” but then reconsiders and says with a smile, “I’d never say never. I suppose it had been difficult trading for a couple of years there, like everywhere else. No different from anyone else anywhere but we got through it and I think we’re getting through it and you just have to tighten your belt and just keep going forward. I think we’ve a good model now with the help of Spar.”
He feels the store “absolutely” offers good value for customers and is particularly impressed with Spar’s Wow offers and promotional cycles which ensure customers can always find a bargain, but that he also makes an all-important margin. “If you go round the front of the shop and look at all the baskets, the items are all €1.50, €2 and they’re all returning a margin for me and that’s what it’s all about. There’s no point in me putting out something and shifting tonnes of it if I’m not making something out of it and it’s about my bottom line at the end of the day.”
Looking towards the future, Furey is confident they’re heading in the right direction. “There’s always challenges, we just try and meet them. I’ve no concerns as such, it’s about just trying to keep doing what we do, the best we can with the help of BWG. There’s always guidance there; they’re always just a phone call away. Overall I think if we do a good job, if we give a good service, people will keep supporting us and we hope that they do that. That’s the way I see it; we just try and do what we do and do it well.”