Staying ahead of the game

Jim Barry, managing director of the Barry Group says the company is “very much in ‘drive on’ mode” following Ireland’s emergence from recession

The Barry Group has had plenty to celebrate of late, with 2015 representing its 60th year in business and managing director Jim Barry being named a National Champion for Ireland in the European Business Awards. Yet while 2015 has proved a year of reflection for the company, Jim Barry says the “professionally fun, family business” remains firmly in “drive on mode”



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16 October 2015

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Congratulations on recently being named a National Champion for Ireland in the European Business Awards. What did the process behind this involve and what was your reaction to the news?

I was delighted to be chosen as a National Champion for the European Business Awards, the category nomination was the RSM Entrepreneur of the Year and I accepted the award on behalf of our whole team here at Barry Group. The process started a couple of months ago with an extremely detailed application process; we went through every aspect of the business and outlined what we felt were our successes and where we were going in the next 12-18 months. It’s always a great boost to the whole team to win awards and we’ve been fortunate enough to win a few this year. It really reinforces everyone’s belief that we are doing the right things as a company.

How important is it to keep in tune with the latest technological developments within the wholesale/retail sectors and what new technology has Barry Group implemented in recent years?

Technology plays a fundamental part in business today and staying in line with current trends and pushing the bar in this sector really gives your business an edge. We are always looking at ways to integrate technology with our processes and offering our customers the most cutting edge options. In the last 12 months especially, we’ve seen hugely positive feedback from our retailers about Beacon – an ordering system developed by our IT team that ensures the most user friendly and effective ordering system for any retailer.

How would you describe your personal leadership style? Has this evolved over the years?

Your leadership style has to constantly evolve, as MD, it’s my job to create a culture where teamwork, innovation and idea generation can flourish. Ultimately you have to create an environment where people will trust you and will believe in the direction you are going. I always try to be upfront and honest with people and create an empowering atmosphere throughout our whole team. It is all part of helping our team to feel valued and engaged which in turn leads to a much higher level of customer care and service.

How do the Barry Group’s Costcutter, Quik Pick and Carry Out brand continue to meet consumer trends, such as the increased focus on healthy eating?

We always try to stay ahead of the game and recognise trends early in the market. This puts our retailers in a great position to capitalise. Healthy eating is increasingly becoming an important part of a store’s offering and we’re very excited about one particular project we are rolling out for this sector.

What are your thoughts on minimum unit pricing for alcohol products – is this a good idea?

I think that the government are looking at the problem in the wrong way. I don’t believe that cheaper brands of alcohol is the main problem because the profit of sale is that of single cans, not by quantities.

The problem as we see it is when you have international brands being sold under-cost, you end up with consumers buying full slabs (24 cans) of beer, possibly leading to excessive consumption.

It should be noted that at present the price of cheaper brands in Ireland is already at a similar price to international brands due to our already high excess duties.

So we believe, that the government should address under-cost selling rather than minimum unit pricing. Note that Fianna Fáil are suggesting that if they are elected they would ban under-cost selling on fruit and veg, so addressing under-cost selling should be possible if the will is there.

The most important thing that should happen is to introduce education about health and healthy eating at secondary school level.

ShelfLife publisher John McDonald presenting Jim Barry with a special award from the ShelfLife team as the company celebrated its 60th anniversary at the Citywest Hotel on Tuesday, 8 September

ShelfLife publisher John McDonald presenting Jim Barry with a special award from the ShelfLife team as the company celebrated its 60th anniversary at the Citywest Hotel on Tuesday, 8 September

Congratulations on celebrating reaching the Barry Group’s 60th anniversary – the Barry Group has achieved a great deal but is there any one achievement you would say you are particularly proud of?

It’s very difficult to pick out one particular achievement. This year has been one of reflection and celebration and from looking back through everything, I think the thing I’m most proud of is the relationships built with my team, our retailers and our suppliers. It’s something we work extremely hard at and it’s something I’ll always take great pride in. I’m also very proud of the fact that we are the only wholesale company in Ireland to hold both a Great Place to Work award and a Deloitte Best Managed award.

Why in your opinion, should a retailer partner with the Barry Group instead of another symbol group brand?

We offer something that’s critical for a retailer in today’s climate; an understanding of a family business. That’s key to the unique customer service we provide. We are very much a family business and we understand and relate to the needs of other family businesses. There’s a lot of volatility in the market today with changes that can have a huge ripple effect on a retailer; we offer that stability that every retailer wants. But we always ensure that along with that stability, our customers are always at the forefront of the market with it comes to industry innovations.

We always offer great value and are a professionally run, family business. The vast majority of our competitors are large multinational companies and I firmly believe that they struggle to understand the family element in this industry. This is what sets us apart for me.

How has Barry Group performed during its latest financial year?

We’ve recorded robust growth across all of our channels. We are very much in ‘drive on’ mode now after coming out of a very difficult recessionary period in the country.

Barry Group currently has more than 265 stores across its three brands – how significantly do you intend to grow store numbers over the next year?      

We are very confident that the packages we offer retailers will ensure further strong growth in the coming year. Recruitment is significantly up across the company as a whole and it’s our intention to drive that through a number of exciting projects we have in the pipeline. In the next 12 months, we expect to grow by 15%. We are planning to open in excess of 40 stores in the next year.






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