Sparring partners

Assistant store manager Paul Kinnane and store manager Niamh O'Connell outside Spar Ballycummin
Assistant store manager Paul Kinnane and store manager Niamh O'Connell outside Spar Ballycummin

The fruits of many hours of deliberations between BWG’s development team and the Glennon group can be seen in the fresh new appearance of Spar Ballycummin



13 August 2010

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Spar Ballycummin,
Ballycummin Village,
Raheen, Co. Limerick

Owners: John & Eddie Glennon
Operations  director: David Price
Size: 5,000 sq ft
Staff: 10 full-time, 8 part-time

A ‘very sober St Patrick’s Day’ was on the cards for the design team behind Spar Ballycumin’s impressive new look this year. David Price, operations director for the Glennon Group, says that together with Declan Ralph and Robert Gough from BWG’s development team, over eight hours were spent deliberating on the exact layout of the newly renovated Spar which re-opened in Ballycummin, Co Limerick, on 15 July.

Assistant store manager Paul Kinnane and store manager Niamh O'Connell outside Spar Ballycummin

Assistant store manager Paul Kinnane and store manager Niamh O’Connell outside Spar Ballycummin

Considering Price wanted “a dramatic change” to show “something new, vibrant and interesting” had arrived in town; he believes it was definitely time well spent. After much consideration, the team decided on locations for key “destination” areas throughout the store, such as the bakery and fruit and veg categories.

A wow feeling

“We totally removed the dairy wall, the off-licence and found a new position for them, and that opened a massive space in the middle of the floor so as you walk in you’ve got that wow feeling; it’s clean and clear and organised,” says Price. He believes extra space also proves invaluable during key occasions such as Christmas, Easter or back to school, “so that you’re not cluttered and can make the most of those offerings and maximise your sales.”

spar3The Glennon Group is by no means a stranger to the importance of good store design. Owned by retailers John and Eddie Glennon from Mullingar, the group includes a number of Eurospar and Spar stores in locations such as Santry, Skerries, Artane and Coolock. The Glennons also own the Coolock Village Discount Store, which sells hardware imported from China and various discounted lines.

Spar Ballycummin, which closed in February under previous retailer Joe McGowan, is the latest store to join the group. The nearby Racehill Spar in Raheen, Co Limerick is also owned by the Glennons. It was renovated just eight weeks before Spar Ballycummin, and benefited from the same design expertise from BWG’s team, with large windows replacing walls, helping to create a similarly bright and airy look.

With a total floorspace of some 5,000sq ft, the Ballycummin store also has sufficient space to house a prominent deli. However the team decided not to include some of the more recent deli concepts such as a noodles bar. In Price’s view, it’s not the equipment or concepts at a deli that render it a success, but the staff behind the offering.

“It’s what you do with [the equipment] that counts,” says Price. “It’s the presentation and the range you do within the deli. Anyone can bake a Cuisine de France product, put it in the oven for 17 minutes at 170 degrees and throw it back on a table or a plate; that’s not what we’re about. It’s about that bit of extra effort, and extra display. People shop with their eyes so it’s important that we pay attention to that and do our best to present the store in the best possible manner.” Price believes deli manager, Sinead, who has both chef and catering experience, has “what is necessary to push things on in a big way.” With a busy industrial estate nearby, the store also hopes to expand further into catering in the future.

spar5‘Tasty Bites’ create USP

Spar Ballycummin is also benefiting from a unique selling point, in the form of the Puratos in-house bakery system. This allows the store to bake its own homemade range including apple-tarts, cheesecakes, muffins, scones and much more, without incurring the expense of buying multiple industrial sized ovens and mixers. “It’s good because it’s homely,” explains Price. The Glennon Group has included these homemade treats under its ‘Tasty Bites’ label; the in-house sandwich and bakery range that the group has developed on all its sites.

Showing an impressive business acumen, Price explains: “When times got tough, we made a decision to stop buying in produce at a reduced margin. This system would enable us to maintain our margin by making goods from scratch, which would in turn allow us to keep people in a job.” He adds that redundancies introduced earlier by the group were not decis-ions that were lightly made. “It was disappoin-ting when times were tough, calls had to be made and certain people had to be let go. It’s not what we’re in the business of doing,” he adds.

spar7A positive attitude

However, opening up the Ballycummin and Racehill stores in Limerick has been a positive experience because it allowed the group to take people back on. “The likes of Ballycummin Spar has been great because it’s taken at least a half dozen if not 10 people off social welfare and their attitude has been great. As opposed to the attitude a few years ago, they have a real drive to keep their job and become part of the team and make Ballycummin a successful store.”

Price is very pleased with the management team the group has selected for the Ballycummin store. General manager Niamh O’Connell had previously worked in the award-winning Ryan’s Centra in Raheen for five years. Paul and Seamus, who are second and third in charge respectively, also have extensive retailing experience.

Internal promotion and giving all employees a chance to progress within the company is an important part of the Glennon Group’s ethos. “We’ve told all our people that if they work hard with us then there’s always possibilities going forward,” says Price. “Of the sites that I look after, 80% of the managers that we have as number ones, all started in a red Spar t-shirt, packing shelves or bags, and they’ve all now worked their way up to number ones and that’s what we tell all our staff members, myself included. I’ve spent 10 years working with John and Eddie now and when I met them first I was sweeping the floor and so it’s a great company to be in, in regards to motivating yourself to achieve more and more.”

Another innovative measure the group uses to reward and motivate staff is providing money for a staff night out to teams who achieve Spar’s ‘Five Star Award.’

spar8Family inspiration

Explaining more about his own retailing background, Price, who hails from north county Dublin, says he is a sixth-generation retailer.  His grandfather William, who recently passed away, was his inspiration for entering the business. “Granddad would’ve been a massive part of our inspiration for getting into it, he was a leader of the community. He belonged to the old school; he wore a white shopkeeper’s jacket which he still wore until the week before he was taken out of the hospital.”

William was one of the first retailers to own a Spar in the 1960s, and ran the Spar in Rush, Co. Dublin – now Eurospar Rush, which is owned by John Glennon. Showing the esteem in which William Price was held by his community, a minute’s silence was recently held in his honour at Croke Park.

The fun factor

The next big event for the store will be its official opening planned for mid September. The crew are planning to make it a fun day out for all the family, complete with a jazz band, face-painting and magicians. Providing customers with the same value for money present in the store’s ‘Real Deal’ ends and own brand offering, will remain an important focus even during this event. When asked if the group are planning any celebrity appearances, Price responds that rather than “paying €8,000 for Gaybo to come down for half an hour,” the team would rather introduce a shopping vouchers giveaway for customers.

At the moment however the Ballycummin store is still finding its feet in regards to stocking the products customers are coming in and asking for. “But that’s the great thing about retail, it changes everyday and you have to adapt with it,” says Price. “The last two or three years have really separated the boys from the men. That’s a sign of how we had to change; we were coming from a place where people were letting their service slip and were charging whatever they felt like when the times were good. But the real retailers now are doing it exactly how it’s meant to be done and focusing on customer service, value, and the family feel within a shop. Those are the pillars of retail that will never change.”                               





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