Serving the kingdom

The store is very spacious and well laid out making it easy for cutomers to navigate
The store is very spacious and well laid out making it easy for cutomers to navigate

Terry Dunne’s Gala in Cahirciveen, Co Kerry is one of the largest supermarkets in the area and is giving the local SuperValu a real run for its money.



18 October 2011

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Gala,Valencia Road,
Cahirciveen, Co Kerry
Owner: Terry Dunne
Size: 10,000 sq ft
Staff no: 19

Dublin born proprietor Terry Dunne is and will probably always be considered a blow-in in Cahirciveen. And being a blow-in puts you at a disadvantage in business as people tend to support a local ahead of someone they don’t know. However to compensate for his lack of local knowledge, Terry recruited Monica O’ Shea, a woman with nearly 30 years of retailing experience but just as importantly she has been reared in the local community and knows nearly everyone in the town and surrounding area by name.

Set in one of the country’s most picturesque regions, this 10,000 square foot Gala store benefited hugely from the tourist trade during its first summer trading. The supermarket is only a very short distance from the Valencia island ferry terminal and a couple of miles from the famous village of Ballinskelligs. Both the island and the mainland are littered with holiday homes. While this is great for business in the summertime, the winter can be a very different place altogether. “The place is really buzzing in the summer but can be quite bleak in winter,” says Monica.

Learning the trade

Although Terry was away on holiday while the interview was conducted Monica explains his background. “He’s been working in supermarkets for 30 years. He was born and bred in Drumcondra, Dublin and came down to Dingle 30 years ago to work for the Garvey SuperValu group and learned everything he knows from Thomas Garvey.”

Monica came to this job with a wealth of experience too. She explains: “I was with the same boss for 23 years and I started at the very bottom and worked my way up. My boss was great but he sold the shop on and then another guy took it over but within two years the place had shut.”

She had a similar unfortunate experience when she started working in this shop. “The shop we’re in now was a EuroSpar and the local family owned it but unfortunately it went into receivership in February. I had been here with them for only a couple of months.

 “When the business went into receivership, Terry heard about the opportunity and came on board in early April. It was a big move for him as it was the first time he would own a store and he was completely new to the town. He asked me if I was interested in coming on board as manager. It was an easy decision really as I was dying to get my hands on my own shop again.”

Good staff make a good shop

There are 19 staff employed at present. Some of them were in the store when Terry took it over and others were old colleagues of Monica’s whom she recruited. “It’s very easy to run a shop if you’ve got a good staff. Your staff will make your shop. There’s a great ole gang here now- 19 of us. It’s the biggest Gala in the country actually.”

A Gala of this size in unusual for the area. There are two other Galas in Kerry but they would be more convenience stores than supermarkets. Monica is very pleased with the Gala look and feel. “Gala is so vibrant and the image is fantastic. The layout is lovely and the uniforms are very smart; black with bright green collars and name badges. When you go in the door of a supermarket, it’s all about presentation I think.”

Goodwill for the new business

When the shop opened there was an outpouring of goodwill from the community as a new business gives a new lease of life to an area.  Monica was able to spread the news to her huge network of family and friends. “I think it was a smart move on Terry’s part to keep me on because I am a local and know everyone in the town and that makes a difference to customers. We can give that personal touch and good customer care. For the first 4/6 weeks, I was introducing Terry to all the customers because it was good for him to get to meet everyone too. He put a big effort in.”

Monica says that only for Terry’s investment in the area this huge building would be lying empty and there would be 19 less people employed in the town. With an unemployment rate of 60% in the area, this amount of jobs means an awful lot.

Offering continued value to customers

The store is supplied by Clifford’s Cash & Carry in Tralee and Monica mentions the great support they receive from Peter Clifford and his team. “They provide us with excellent offers and a vast range of products. This coupled with the systems and support of the Gala Retail Services team offers dual support to the store.”

Before the recession set in, retailing was all about loyalty; now it’s all about price, says Monica. “Loyalty’s gone out with the breeze. It’s nice to be nice but if people don’t have the money, then price is always to the fore.

“Because we are here in a small town, we have to watch our prices as we are so close to SuperValu and they put out a new flyer every month in the post and their advertising is very strong so we need to be competing.”

“However I have to say that we’ve come up trumps in the last week. We decided to put together a really good package for Christmas. We have a free turkey and ham for every customer with a certain amount of stamps on the card. We started promoting it a few days ago. It’s going really well. Terry is really good like that. He suggested giving free turkeys and I nearly fell off the chair. Then I said as a joke sure we can’t give them the turkey without the ham and he said, “good idea”. I was so delighted. It’s great because to be honest we’re just a small rural area with high unemployment and we always notice a very quiet period after the kids go back to school because of the expense it puts on the parents. This promotion is bringing people into the store”.

According to Moncia around 60% of the houses in the area will be empty until next April. Monica and Terry know that they have to offer something special to keep the customers coming back in this climate.

Setting themselves apart from the competition

Aside from the impressive modern look and feel of the building, they have incorporated a number of services exclusive to this store. These include a coffee dock with seating for 24 people and a scratch bakery. The bakery has proved very successful so far.

“We bake all our own breads – corn, spelt, health, you name it. We make our own sliced pans and we sell them for 99 cents. We still make a margin because we’re baking from scratch. No other shop anywhere near us has their own scratch bakery so people will travel to us for that.”

Increasing the trolley shoppers

Already with a very decent ratio of 60% basket and 40% trolley shoppers, they are hoping to increase the trolley shoppers in the coming year. “We’ve done well so far because we had the busy summer period so now we are heading into the winter so we are hoping our offers and Christmas promotion will keep people coming in. You have to do something to get people spending again,” says Monica.

“We are sending out flyers through An Post so we can cover 6,000 households promoting our offers. I think it’s the best way. When they come in the door, you do look at it and you do notice prices and I’ve tried the hand delivered leaflets before and you just can’t reach enough houses.”

The store is competing directly with the SuperValu down the road. Considering Monica has 10 siblings it’s not surprising that a member of her family works with the competitor. “My sister in law is the manager of SuperValu! It’s a very small community. I hear what promotions they have on and they hear what we have as staff from both shops would be in and out of the stores having a look!” 

Monica has a real love of the business and she says that is because she has grown up in retail. “I’ve been in shops since I was 11. My dad died when we were really young so my mum sent us all out to work from an early age. The boss never knew I was so young. My mum told him I was 15. I stayed in school but at the weekends and evenings I was in the shop. I was lucky that I got the opportunity to go to college too but my whole life has been in a shop.”

While the tourists are all gone now, there is another customer group that they will be focusing on through the winter months. There is a school with 900 pupils just down the road from the shop. They are enticing the children in with meal deals and the coffee dock as they can buy a sandwich and eat it on site.

Moncia says that the main aim is to get though the first year of business and build up a good customer base in the area. With her level of enthusiasm for her job and experience in the trade, it is hard to imagine this store not succeeding. 




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