Symbol solutions

Throughout the pandemic, pro-active and quick support and solutions from retailers’ symbol group partners has been critical. Here, we explore the ethos, ambition and practical approach and benefits of Ireland’s leading symbols

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Brand Central

1 September 2020 | 0

Spar


Fact file

Spar

Number of stores nationwide: 400+

Typical store size: varies

Head office: BWG House, Greenhills Road, Tallaght, Dublin 24, D24 Y722

Wholesale partner: BWG Foods

Type of distribution network: BWG National Distribution Centre (NDC) servicing fresh, ambient and alcohol to all Spar stores nationwide

Website: www.spar.ie

Social Media: Facebook.com/SPARIreland; Instagram@spar_ireland; Twitter: @SPARIreland

Tagline: ‘Under the Tree at Spar’


Q&A with Colin Donnelly, Spar sales director

Colin Donnelly

Colin Donnelly

Q: Ireland’s convenience store sector is a global leader in terms of innovation. What innovations has your group developed in recent years to meet the latest consumer trends?

A: Spar is a brand that is always evolving; we pride ourselves on our ability to predict trends and anticipate what our customers want to see next in our stores. To this end, we have a dedicated food and beverage innovation team ensuring we predict and follow trends for our customers. We are very much the market leader when it comes to retail foodservice. For example, our latest range of Spar Deli offers includes on-trend healthy snacking in the guise of protein-packed products from the Spar Deli grab and go section.

We are also at the forefront of technological innovation, with our My Spar Rewards Club app offering third party rewards for members and, in response to the Covid-19 crisis, Spar introduced an online ordering app offering shoppers pre-order for delivery and collection.

One of our strongest assets is our people, our retailers and their staff and we ensure we attract, train and retain the best people via our BWG Academy.

The Spar brand is ubiquitous across rural and urban landscapes throughout Ireland

Q: Post-Covid, value has arguably become more important than ever for many shoppers. How does your group work to ensure competitive pricing and promotional cycles while maintaining margin for retailers?

A: Spar has always been competitive with pricing; our promotional offers are best in class. Our ‘Spar Red Value’ campaign signposts promotional value for shoppers through TV, radio, in-store and digital signposting. Our Every Day Value commitment has been rolled out across the estate to highlight everyday prices on big brands, ensuring Spar shoppers avail of value during the top-up mission.

A market leader in foodservice, the Spar Deli range includes on-trend healthy snacking options and produce ‘made here fresh for you now’

Q: How has your group supported retailers throughout the Covid-19 crisis?

A: We have always operated a retailer-first approach when it comes to supporting our colleagues. At the very beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, BWG Foods formed a Covid-19 committee that meets virtually with findings and recommendations shared with our retailers on an ongoing basis. To ensure our retailers are educated on the most up-to-date government advice, our retail advisory teams are in daily contact with their retailers.

Our retailers also avail of a full HR offering, which includes our new hiring support platform whereby we help with the recruitment process and offer a full suite of training via our industry-leading BWG Academy.

Q: How has the Covid-19 crisis affected Ireland’s convenience sector? What are the long-term consequences and how will you help retailers to successfully navigate the challenges facing them in the weeks and months ahead? 

A: There is no denying that Covid-19 has changed the convenience landscape and reminded consumers of the importance of their local community store. Spar retailers have been phenomenal in responding to the needs of their communities to continue to provide an essential service for their local customers.

The mix of sales within stores has changed and Spar is continuously updating merchandising plans to reflect changing consumer habits. An increase in basket size and growth of key grocery categories has been evident throughout the pandemic with people dining at home and working from home. While food-to-go struggled initially as people were confined to their homes, and footfall in key urban areas dropped as never seen before, it is starting to bounce back slowly. Spar retailers have changed their approach in how they cater to consumers in a changing world.

The long-term effects of the Covid-19 crisis will not be known for some time, which is the only thing we can be certain about now as we continue to adapt to meet the challenges we are faced with on a daily basis. BWG Foods has always ensured that the needs of our retailers, and in turn our shoppers are met, no matter the challenges faced.

Q: How would you sum up your main point of difference from the competition?

A: Our retailers. Spar’s brand is ubiquitous across rural and urban landscapes in Ireland and our retailers care very deeply about the communities they serve. We are a brand centred on people and strong partnerships and have shown the strength of the partnership side of our business since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our retailers have shown how dynamic they can be. They have embraced new technologies and are fully focused on continuing to provide a safe shopping environment for their customers and communities.  We are extremely proud of our retailers and their staff.


XL


Fact File

XL

Number of stores nationwide: 250+

Typical store size: 110 sq m

Head office: BWG Foods UC, BWG House, Greenhills Road, Tallaght, Dublin 24

Wholesale partner: Value Centre

Type of distribution network: 22 Value Centre and cash & carry branches nationwide and chill distribution

Website: www.xlstores.ie

Social media: www.facebook.com/XLIreland/

Tagline: A great deal more at your local store


Q & A with… Paul Bealin, head of sales, XL

Paul Bealin

Q: What innovations has your group developed in recent years to meet the latest consumer trends?

A: Consumer behaviour has been affected by the global pandemic and while recent trends over the past few years have indicated a more health conscious consumer driven by convenient ways to follow a healthier lifestyle and diet, we have seen a shift towards essential grocery goods. Stocked with daily essentials and much more, XL stores were able meet the demands of their local communities with their essential range, offering a convenient and quick place to shop. Recent weeks have showed a demand for take-home products for shoppers to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes, and to share with family and friends. With the expertise of the BWG team and the national and local distribution supply model, XL has the flexibility to evolve to meet and exceed consumer needs and wants.

Throughout the pandemic, XL stores have been able meet the demands of their local communities by offering a convenient and quick place to shop

Q: How does your group work to ensure competitive pricing and promotional cycles while maintaining margin for retailers?

A: With access to competitively priced products and innovative offerings via the buying power of BWG Foods, one of the many benefits retailers avail of is a vast and diverse supply network through its nationwide Value Centre wholesale cash and carry network, and through the company’s chill distribution centre in Dublin. Through the Value Centre network, XL retailers have access to exclusive promotions every three weeks. XL retailers also benefit from the BWG Foods annual Trade Show, which went virtual this summer for its tenth anniversary with offers across hundreds of products. 

Q: How has your group supported retailers throughout the Covid-19 crisis?

A: From the outset of this crisis, BWG Foods has provided a full suite of Covid-19 signage and a support kit highlighting the measures to be taken when shopping. Safety is our number one priority and continues to be so. BWG also launched a new online support platform – the BWG B-Well App. This service is of real, tangible benefit to retailers, employees and family members by providing access to professional experts in the areas of mental health and wellbeing.

XL has strong value credentials, as demonstrated here with its ‘Big Deal’ offering

Q: What are the long-term consequences of the Covid-19 crisis for Ireland’s convenience sector and how will you help retailers to successfully navigate the challenges facing them in the weeks and months ahead? 

A: XL retailers have responded to the challenge by focusing on immediate customer and employee needs and fulfilling them in unique ways, through e-commerce, delivery services or special provisions. As the full economic fall-out of Covid-19 remains to be seen, value offerings will gain greater importance in the coming months. Some of the changes seen in consumer food-related behaviour and attitudes are however temporary, but some will be more permanent in nature. We hope to see consumers continue to spend local to support their communities.

Q: How would you sum up your main point of difference from the competition?

A: XL offers you the opportunity to own your own business, pursue your entrepreneurial spirit as an independent retailer and, at the same time, benefit from being part of a nationwide brand with access to big buying power and the many invaluable support mechanisms that membership of a symbol group brings. XL offers independent retailers a mutually beneficial partnership opportunity in which the key objective is to maximise your retail sales and margins.

XL offers a flexible, market-leading package, which enables retailers to tailor their shop to consumer needs, and also to react quickly to changing market conditions in order to grow their business. XL’s affordable fit-out cost is one of its many attractions. It’s tagline; ‘A great deal more at your local store’ underpins the brand promise of serving local communities, delivering great value, choice, service and exciting consumer promotions.


Londis


Fact file

Londis

Number of stores nationwide: 130+

Typical store size: Varies

Head office: BWG House, Greenhills Road, Tallaght, Dublin 24, D24 Y722

Wholesale partner: BWG Foods

Type of distribution network: BWG National Distribution Centre, (NDC) servicing fresh, ambient and alcohol to all Londis stores nationwide

Website: www.londis.ie

Social media: @LondisIreland on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

Tagline: Local like you


Q&A with… Conor Hayes, Londis sales director

Conor Hayes

Q: What innovations has your group developed in recent years to meet the latest consumer trends? 

A: Technology is becoming ever more prevalent in the retail grocery market, especially when it comes to convenience for shoppers. Even before the advent of Covid-19 and the restrictions and health and safety concerns inherent with this crisis, time was the new gold for customers and the goal was to spend the least amount of time possible in stores. In recent months, through the use of ‘Martech’, a blend of marketing and technology, Londis has been working to satisfy growing shopper demand by introducing different innovations to expedite the shopping experience.

For example, in response to the Covid-19 crisis, Londis introduced online ordering in a number of stores to help facilitate cocooners and shoppers who needed to self-isolate, whereby they could place their grocery order and have it delivered or choose to collect it from their local Londis store.

Londis’ family philosophy permeates through the group, retailers and actions

Q: How does your group work to ensure competitive pricing and promotional cycles while maintaining margin for retailers?

A: At Londis, we recently introduced a ‘Best Value Promise’ across our network of stores. This initiative is to ensure we are price matched against competitors to ensure that our customers are benefitting from the best value the market has to offer.

We are committed to promoting this value offer through our TV and radio advertising, through our consumer flyers that are published every three weeks and we continue to work closely with our trading and promotions teams to ensure that shoppers at Londis stores are benefitting from the best price and value in the industry.

Londis says it works closely with trading and promotions teams to ensure shoppers benefit from the best prices across all in-store departments

Q: How has your group supported retailers throughout the Covid-19 crisis?

A: We have always placed a priority on the health and safety of our retailers, staff and their customers. From the very beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, Londis and BWG Foods have been the industry leaders when it comes to responding to the ever-changing landscape and the demands this global pandemic has placed on our industry.

Our retailers have ensured they have displayed a full suite of Covid-19 signage highlighting the health and safety measures to be taken in their stores when shopping. These vary from the two-metre distancing floor markings to one-way arrows for ease of traversing the store. Stores also have erected perspex screens at the tills to keep both the checkout operator and customer safe.

In addition to these measures, we have implemented enhanced daily cleanliness and touch-point sanitation protocols across all stores and facilities, on top of our standard stringent protocols. The key to retail grocery stores remaining open to service their local communities is that staff and customers alike are protected and feel safe while they work and shop.

In a direct response to the changing needs of our customers during the lockdown period, we broadened our range to our retailers to include flower bedding and potted plant ranges.

In the first few months, BWG Foods hosted a thrice-weekly conference call with the wider Londis team to answer any queries and address any concerns Londis retailers had and we offered expert HR and marketing advice and support through our dedicated Londis marketing team.

Q: What are the long-term consequences of Covid-19 for Ireland’s convenience sector and how will you help retailers to successfully navigate the challenges facing them in the weeks and months ahead?

A: There is no ‘one size fits all’ response to this evolving situation. We will be experiencing the effects of this global crisis for some time to come, which is the only certainty there is. Londis has a strong tradition of supporting our retailers through the most challenging of circumstances and we are committed to helping them in any way we can to ensure all our Londis retailers continue to provide their communities with an essential service.

Q: How would you sum up your main point of difference from the competition?

A: At Londis, we have a unique professional, personal and mutually beneficial relationship with our retailers. We are a symbol brand that prides itself as being very much a family-orientated one, and we wear that ethos as a badge of honour. Londis is about a ‘family’ philosophy that permeates through the group, our retailers and our actions. Londis retailers, their staff and the wider Londis team very much live up to the brand promise of ‘Local like you’.


Mace


Fact file 

Mace

Number of stores nationwide: 160

Typical store size: 135sq m

Head office: BWG Foods, Greenhills Road, Tallaght, Dublin 24, D24 Y722

Wholesale partner: BWG Foods

Type of distribution network: BWG National Distribution Centre (NDC) servicing fresh, ambient and alcohol to all Mace stores nationwide

Website: www.mace.ie

Social media: https://www.facebook.com/MACEIreland

www.youtube.com/MACEIreland

www.instagram.com/mace_ireland

www.twitter.com/MACEIreland

Tagline: Going the extra smile


Q&A with… Daniel O’Connell, Mace sales director

Daniel O’Connell

Q: What innovations has your group developed in recent years to meet the latest consumer trends?

A: We have all experienced acceleration in digital trends in recent years. How we communicate with our shoppers has seen a move towards digital and online to ensure that Mace reaches shoppers through a mix of traditional and digital means. The digital acceleration has been more rapid in the last few months. In order to provide new ways to service its shoppers, Mace has launched an online ordering app. Shoppers can choose to collect in-store or to have their groceries delivered thus expanding on the shopping options available to them.

Mace has a strong track record of building successful long-term partnerships with progressive retailers

Q: How does your group work to ensure competitive pricing and promotional cycles while maintaining margin for retailers?

A: Value is an interesting concept as it can mean different things to different groups of shoppers. Post-Covid, we anticipate that there will be a spectrum of shopper types where value will mean something completely different to each one. For example we all know that the unemployment rate has risen rapidly during Covid; what value meant to shoppers that fall into that group is very different to what will appeal to shoppers who have been more insulated from the effects of Covid on their employment status. Given the nature of convenience, Mace aims to satisfy its target shoppers by providing value that appeals to them. This is achieved through a mixture of base pricing, value add, discount and promotional activity as well as having a role for own brand ranges.

Q: How has your group supported retailers throughout the Covid-19 crisis?

A: Throughout the business our focus has been on supporting our retailers. They and their staff have been frontline heroes throughout the pandemic. They have gone above and beyond their normal work practices to ensure that their stores are safe shopping environments and so that they continue to meet the changing needs of their local shoppers.

From a BWG perspective, our sales and marketing teams have worked closely with our HR and retail development teams to ensure that the right practices and policies are implemented in each store and that timely and appropriate communication is in place to ensure that our shoppers know they can shop safely at their local Mace. Working with our trading colleagues to ensure the right ranges to meet changing needs has been a critical step in ensuring the right assortment is available in-store too.

Mace offers an appetising range of ‘fresh-to-go’ choices across the breakfast, lunch and dinner occasions

Q: What are the long-term consequences of the Covid-19 crisis for the convenience sector and how will you help retailers to successfully navigate the challenges facing them in the weeks and months ahead? 

A: There are a number of elements that we see as having a significant influence on Mace retailers and their business.

  1. We have seen a significant up-weighting in the role of convenience in recent months during the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of large shopping trips per week has decreased and convenience has benefited with more trips for top-up shopping. Working from home or hybrid working (mix of office and home) offers a big opportunity for the convenience sector. Ensuring that Mace retailers stock the right mix of product ranges is just one example of how we will work to ensure that they meet this trend.
  2. We have seen an upsurge in local businesses being supported. It is as if “Local = More trusted”. Combine this with the fact that there is likely to be a greater geographical spread of sales as more people work remotely and we will work with our Mace retailers geographically to ensure that they meet the needs of their local shoppers.
  3. Accelerated digital – the trend towards digital has accelerated and we don’t envisage the pace slowing down. We will continue to work with our Mace retailers to ensure that they meet the needs of their shoppers in this space and are trialling a number of innovations across the BWG Group to meet these needs.

Q: How would you sum up your main point of difference from the competition? 

A: From the perspective of our retailers, Mace has a strong track record of building successful long- term partnerships with progressive retailers. These relationships are defined by our positive, value adding and long-term partnerships that we have with each Mace retailer.

At Mace, we take great pride in building sustainable relationships that drive the profitable performance of each store by working closely with the local retailer and their teams. From our shoppers’ perspective our main point of difference is the friendly and welcoming shopping environment provided by Mace retailers and their staff – ‘Going the extra smile’ has become even more important in recent times.


Eurospar


Fact file

Eurospar Supermarkets

Number of stores nationwide: 51

Typical store size: 800-1300sq m

Head office: BWG House, Greenhills Road, Tallaght, Dublin 24, D24 Y722

Wholesale partner: BWG Foods

Type of distribution network: BWG National Distribution Centre (NDC) servicing fresh, ambient and alcohol to all Eurospar stores nationwide

Website: www.EUROSPAR.ie

Social media: Facebook: @eurosparireland, Instagram: @eurospar_ireland

Tagline: The Supereasy Supermarket


Q & A with… Malachy Hanberry, managing director, Eurospar

Malachy Hanberry

Q: What innovations has your group developed in recent years to meet the latest consumer trends?

A: Eurospar is constantly adapting to meet the needs of our customers and we pride ourselves on our ability to know what our shoppers want across fresh food, grocery, alcohol and rewards. We innovate through our commitments to our customers. These include our ‘Famous for Fresh’ promise, which is a differentiated position across our key departments of butchery, delicatessen, bakery and fruit and veg along with our in-store manufacture, assembly and packaging of an ever-expanding and dynamic range of fresh foods. These are developed exclusively for our Eurospar retailers and are at the core of the differentiated Famous for Fresh offering to shoppers.

Similarly, our Price Match or Better programme ensures cheaper or matching prices on over 1,000 grocery products. We carry out price comparison every three weeks and update all participating Eurospar supermarkets with updated point of sale.

Our Price Check programme is our promise to shoppers that Eurospar supermarkets will match, or beat, the pricing of discount stores on a range of equivalent branded products.

Also, our Eurospar SuperEasy Rewards programme provides for exclusive price and product offers for SuperEasy Rewards members, who can use their points whenever they want, to get discounts on their shopping at Eurospar supermarkets, so there is no waiting for money-off vouchers.

We are also very proud of our Famous for Great Value Wines commitment, which ensures a vast range of exclusive BWG Foods agency wines available to suit all pockets and our unique price-point merchandising structure ensures simplicity in the wine shopping experience.

Eurospar’s ‘Famous for Fresh’ promise is a differentiated position across key departments

Q: How does your group work to ensure competitive pricing and promotional cycles while maintaining margin for retailers?

A: Eurospar supermarkets have always been competitive with pricing; our promotional offers are best in class and our SuperEasy Rewards exclusive member offers add another dimension to value in Eurospar. Our cyclical offers are heavily supported through handbills, in-store POS, in-store radio, national press and radio as well as national and local social media.

We also deliver deep discounted tactical offers to shoppers during key retailing dates throughout the year drives continued value to Eurospar shoppers and increased footfall across the Eurospar retailer network.

Retailer margin is a priority for the Eurospar management team and delivery against this objective is well known and accepted in the sector.

Eurospar’s shopper proposition is focused around freshness, value, service, availability, rewards and experience

Q: How has your group supported retailers throughout the Covid-19 crisis?

A: Eurospar provided an extensive suite of support mechanisms to our stores through a variety of measures, including the development of a range of Covid-19 policies and procedures that are now standard practice across Eurospar supermarkets.

In conjunction with BWG Foods, we made available a suite of materials and signage that reassured shoppers that Eurospar supermarkets are a safe environment in which to shop.

We introduced individual store videos that were broadcast on digital and social media channels that showed the measures our local retailers were taking and continue to take to ensure that their supermarkets are sanitised, stocked and that all social distancing measures are in place.

The communication of Eurospar’s brand value messaging across all media channels showcases our retailers’ commitment to serving customers and communities in a safe manner.

The mix of sales within supermarkets has changed particularly within the grocery and alcohol categories and Eurospar says it is continuously updating plans to reflect changing consumer habits

Q: What are the long-term consequences of Covid-19 for Ireland’s supermarket sector and how will you help retailers to successfully navigate the challenges facing them in the weeks and months ahead?

A: BWG will help Eurospar retailers in many different ways. Covid-19 has changed the supermarket landscape and reminded consumers of the importance of shopping local, Eurospar supermarkets have been phenomenal in welcoming these new customers and retaining them. The mix of sales within supermarkets has changed particularly within the grocery and alcohol categories and Eurospar are continuously updating plans to reflect changing consumer habits.

We are working with retailers to seize the opportunities created in the new retail environment and we are flexing our support services to them, on that journey.

Q: How would you sum up your main point of difference from the competition?

A: The vision of BWG and Eurospar is to develop true partnerships between brand owner and retailer, working together to develop a network of local family-owned supermarkets with a unifying shopper proposition focused on providing freshness, value, service, availability, rewards and experience.

Eurospar retailers are integral parts of the local communities they operate in. Their position has become more vital and enhanced during Covid-19 and shopper sentiment has increased across the entire estate as Eurospar retailers have gone above and beyond to ensure that their stores are well stocked, sanitised and open for business. Through local initiatives such as home delivery, support of local clubs and charities, Eurospar supermarkets are the fulcrum for so much activity within their communities.


Costcutter


Fact file

Costcutter

Head office: Barry Group, Upper Quartertown, Mallow, Cork

Type of distribution network: Central distribution (chilled, ambient and alcohol) from 150,000sq ft central warehouse in Mallow, Cork

Website: www.costcutter.ie

Social media: Facebook: @CostcutterIreland; Instagram: @Costcutterire; Twitter: @Costcutter IRL

Tagline: ‘Proud to be Local’


Q&A with… Edwina Lucey, sales director, Costcutter

Edwina Lucey

Q: What innovations has your group developed in recent years to meet the latest consumer trends?

A: We spend a considerable amount of time researching trends and crafting our response to them. We try to find the correct balance between the optimal approach for our retailers, ensuring they see profitable growth, while tailoring it to the consumer also. These innovations occur in a multitude of ways. Firstly, from a fresh food perspective, we have introduced two new concepts, Market St. Deli and The Salad Patch, and both have been a great success to date. We currently are working on the development of two more fresh food initiatives which will be in-store in the coming months.

Urban Sips, our coffee brand is another brand which was crafted upon consumer trends. What gives us a competitive advantage here is that extensive research went into its creation and the fact that it has been tailor made to the preference of the Irish consumer. Also, from an offering perspective, Freezi Licks, our premium ice-cream brand has been an addition to Costcutter which is loved by our retailers and consumers alike.

Extensive research went into the creation of Costcutter’s unique Urban Sips coffee concept, which has been tailor made to suit the preference of the Irish consumer

Extensive research went into the creation of Costcutter’s unique Urban Sips coffee concept, which has been tailor made to suit the preference of the Irish consumer

Q: How does your group work to ensure competitive pricing and promotional cycles while maintaining margin for retailers?

A: I think it is important to foster close, supportive relationships with the supply community to ensure continuous promotional cycles. Specifically, from a price point of view, we have great relationships with our suppliers and we jointly work together with the retailer and the customer in mind. We have a huge focus on value lines and volume drivers, but we also offer a range of own label and extensive range of exclusive lines which offer the retailer a healthy margin figure.

Q: How has your group supported retailers throughout the Covid-19 crisis? 

A: The past few months have undoubtedly been some of the most difficult that retailers have ever experienced. Our Costcutter retailers were fully supported by the Barry Group team. Through the establishment of our Covid response team, we had a constant flow of communication with our retailers as we endeavour to support them to the best of our ability. We made sure that they were equipped with the correct information to respond to changes in their business effectively.

During this period, we introduced added deliveries to our schedule to ensure that Costcutter stores were equipped with stock to deal with the overwhelming demand. We also launched an instore communications campaign to showcase the efforts happening in-store. Additionally, we encouraged our retailers to adapt their business models in line with customers’ evolving needs and wants and facilitate call and collect, click and collect and curb-side delivery. This acted as a point of difference for our retailers as they further immersed themselves in their communities and really showcased what it means to be ‘Proud to be Local’.

Q: What are the long-term consequences of the Covid-19 crisis for Ireland’s convenience sector and how will you help retailers to successfully navigate the challenges facing them in the weeks and months ahead?

A: We have spent quite a considerable time investigating this. A cross-departmental team was appointed to research and work on the most effective approach to the upcoming exogenous recession. We do believe that arising from Covid-19, the convenience sector will feel the effects of the recession and we have created a new retail guide to navigate Costcutter retailers through this period.

From a long-term perspective, we do anticipate the changes in consumer behaviour that we are facing to stay, and it is important that we continue adapting at a retail level to ensure that customers have a safe in-store experience. Additionally, as customers are still favouring night in occasions, we are adapting our offering to suit this occurrence.

Costcutter’s two new foodservice concepts, Market St. Deli and The Salad Patch (shown above) have both recorded strong success to date

Costcutter’s two new foodservice concepts, Market St. Deli and The Salad Patch (shown above) have both recorded strong success to date

Q: How would you sum up your main point of difference from the competition?

A: We are Ireland’s leading family-run wholesale distribution group. Therefore, we understand the needs of family businesses and consider our relationship with our customers to be a ‘partnership’.

We identify with the challenges that our retailers face and aim to offer competitive solutions with undisputed support from our accomplished team across all elements of our business including sales, inside sales, marketing, and logistics just to name a few. We are aware that this is not standard industry practice, but it is something that we pride ourselves on.

Additionally, we strive to provide value both to the consumer in price and range, but also in support we give to our retail partners. Essentially, we always aim to give customers the best possible service, exceeding industry standards in the wholesale sector.


Gala


Fact file

Gala Retail

Number of stores nationwide: 170 Gala and 35 Your Stop stores

Typical store size: 1,750sq ft                   

Head office: Gala Retail, Summit House, Embassy Office Park, Kill, Co. Kildare

Wholesale partner: Gala wholesaler members

Type of distribution network: Ambient depots, central billing, chilled distribution

Website: www.gala.ie

Social media: Facebook.com/Gala Retail, @Gala_Retail on Twitter, @Gala_Retail on Instagram

Tagline: Your Local Market


Q&A with… CEO of Gala Retail, Gary Desmond

Gary Desmond

Gary Desmond

Q: What innovations has your group developed in recent years to meet the latest consumer trends?

A: As a group, Gala recognises the role of innovation in ensuring that Gala Retail is meeting the changing needs of the Irish consumer. In recent years, the Gala Group has turned its focus to the creation of own-brand products and in-store concepts that set the Gala Retail brand apart from competitors.

The first of these concepts was Baker’s Corner, which enables retailers to offer quality home baked goods, freshly prepared each day for their customers. This was soon joined by Coffee Junction, our own coffee offering and a natural pairing for Baker’s Corner.

Last year saw the introduction of the Gala Group’s new deli offering, New Street Deli, a colourful street food inspired deli menu as well as a new whipped ice cream and dessert station, Galato.

The innovation and introduction of these concepts to stores has been hugely beneficial to our retailers, visibly increasing sales and driving footfall, drawing new customers to stores. This year, Gala will introduce its latest concept, an in-store pizza counter, where customers can enjoy premium quality pizza fresh from the oven and available to buy by the slice or as a whole pizza.

Q: How does your group work to ensure competitive pricing and promotional cycles while maintaining margin for retailers? 

A: Value has always been central to our offering, and never more so than during the pandemic. This value offering along with the services that our retailers continue to provide for customers has been commendable over the past number of months. Working closely with our suppliers during this time has been crucial in ensuring that our offerings deliver value for both our retailers and customers.

Q: How has your group supported retailers throughout the Covid-19 crisis?

The Covid-19 crisis created a lot of operational challenges for retailers and the reaction of the Gala Group and its retailers has been to adapt our services to safely meet the needs of customers, while ensuring that the general public can rely on a steady supply of goods during this time.

Communication has been a key element of Gala’s strategy, ensuring that the lines of communication with our retailers are open at all times.

Gala stores are being supported in a variety of mediums, from email communications and phone calls to virtual calls and via the Live Chat function on the Gala website. Gala has created a dedicated section for Covid-19 on the Gala retailer website, ‘Grow’, and on the Gala retailer app.

Using these platforms, Gala HQ has been able to quickly and efficiently share resources with our retailers including regular updates on the situation regarding Covid-19 guidelines from the government and HSE as well as guidelines on operations, hygiene and social distancing to protect both staff members and customers, as well as providing supporting signage and graphics of floor markings, stickers and posters for use in-store.

Gala’s customer feedback on in-store experience described shopping at Gala as uplifting and genuine

Q: What are the long-term consequences of the Covid-19 crisis and how will you help retailers to successfully navigate the challenges facing them in the weeks and months ahead?

A: Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the approach of Irish shoppers to grocery retail. In addition to the general public requiring reassurance that they can shop safely, the more vulnerable members of our communities such as the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions are looking for alternative ways to shop while limiting face-to-face interactions.

The long-term consequences of this are that in addition to creating a safe and hygienic shopping environment for customers, Gala retailers are adapting their services to meet the changing needs of those who feel unable to shop in-store. Our stores have been responding to the new requirements of their communities with the introduction of new services such as home delivery services and setting out dedicated shopping hours for specific vulnerable groups, such as elderly customers, to shop in-store.

Gala has also launched a ‘Click and Collect’ shopping system for our retailers. This service, developed on the Shopify website platform, allows retailers who adopt the new model, to accept customer orders online which can then be collected directly from the store.

Our dedicated retailer website, ‘Grow’, is constantly updated with the information and resources to equip Gala retailers with what they need to navigate the ongoing challenges presented by the Covid-19 crisis.

Q: How would you sum up your main point of difference from the competition?

A: Gala is all about shopping local and the communities in which our stores operate. Our retailers are a testament to this, with the independent nature of the Gala model, retailers are well placed to cater to the needs of their specific communities and they are doing so to great success. The feedback we are receiving on our platforms from customers regarding their experience in stores across the country is uplifting and genuine.

The retail sector faces an uncertain future, but we are well placed to move forward and face this pandemic, ensuring we continue to offer value and tailored services to customers, our communities and to Gala retailers.


Centra


Fact file

Centra

Number of stores nationwide: 470+

Head office: Musgrave, Tramore Road, Cork.

Wholesale partner: Musgrave

Website: www.centra.ie

Social media: @CentraIRL (Twitter) @centra_irl (Instagram)

Tagline: ‘Live Every Day’


Dan Curtin

 Q&A with… Dan Curtin, Centra sales director

Q: Ireland’s convenience store sector is a global leader in terms of innovation. What innovations has your group developed in recent years to meet the latest consumer trends? 

A: Centra has led the way in re-defining the convenience sector with the development of several market-leading brands such as Frank and Honest Coffee, Moo’d Ice Cream and Caramico Pizza. These brands provide a material point of difference from our competitors and allows a Centra store to deliver a premium quality product in a consistent manner every day of the week.

Through our consumer insights team, we have a clear view on the changing trends in the market which identified an increasingly health conscious customer in recent years and in response to this, Centra repositioned our brand and offering to meet consumer demand. We have a healthier, more innovative product offering with changes across the store like all of our new fresh bakery products being free from artificial flavourings, colours and hydrogenated fats; all of our dinner meal ranges being less than 450 calories and containing at least one of your five-a-day per serving; and reducing shelf space for carbonates in favour of promoting healthier alternatives.

Centra’s store renovation programme also delivers a modern store, including seating areas in many cases, designed to match the changing needs of our customers. An example of this is our prominent ‘front of store’ fridges which display the Centra range of healthy salad and fruit pots and allows customers to easily grab a healthy lunch or snacking alternative.

With many shoppers now working from home, Centra has worked closely with retail partners to ensure store offerings match the needs of the new trading pattern

Q: How does your group work to ensure competitive pricing and promotional cycles while maintaining margin for retailers?

A: Value has always been a core element of the Centra brand and we are the most competitive convenience group in the market. Centra took a lot of learnings from the last recession where delivering a good quality value offering was a key element in maintaining customer loyalty. There is a clear and competitive promotional plan which allows our sales team to work closely with our independent retail partners to maximise the opportunities for these promotions in their stores. This is further underpinned by our own brand range of over 2,500 products which provide great products as a clear value alternative for Centra customers.

Q: How has your group supported retailers throughout the Covid-19 crisis?

A: Firstly, I would like to say a huge thank you to our independent retail partners and their dedicated teams in-store.

It has never been more apparent how deeply embedded Centra retailers are in their communities. Fundamentally they stepped up to the challenge of Covid-19 and we were there to support them. We knew they were working around the clock to ensure that they would not let customers down, so we made sure to make our retail partners’ lives as easy as possible, taking away pressure where we could by providing a recruitment hub which gave them easy access to staff to cover any absences in their store and provided centralised resources such as communications toolkits for managing social distancing requirements in-store.

Our sales team and all support functions remained on the road and available on a daily basis to retailers to help them and their teams cope with significant change in trading patterns. Our logistics team worked around the clock to ensure that availability in our stores was maximised throughout the crisis, this achievement cannot be underestimated with record sales volumes and a significantly changing sales mix all delivered with no lead-in time to prepare!

We know from the very positive feedback from Centra customers that they recognised the huge efforts of their local retailers, who ensured that their local community would not be left shorthanded.

Market-leading brands such as Frank and Honest Coffee, Moo’d Ice Cream and Caramico Pizza provide a material point of difference within Centra stores

Q: How has the Covid-19 crisis affected Ireland’s convenience sector? What are the long-term consequences and how will you help retailers to successfully navigate the challenges facing them in the weeks and months ahead?

A: Covid-19 has reinforced the value of the convenience sector in the overall retail marketplace. Customers shopped local throughout the crisis and the sense of community that Centra prides itself on came to the fore. Customers know and trust their local Centra retailer and the retailer knows the customer. Customers really valued the efforts made by their local Centra to keep them safe and provide for all their shopping needs.

The progression of technology has meant that hundreds of thousands of workers are now doing their job from home; this has impacted shopping patterns significantly. Centra worked very closely with our retail partners to ensure their store offerings matched the needs of the new trading pattern, which may never fully revert back.

Not all Centra stores saw an increase in trade through Covid-19. Many city centre and forecourt stores were impacted by the lockdown. Our dedicated retail finance and HR teams worked closely with these retailers to provide support through Covid-19. This support helped our retailers to access the various government supports, grants and support services available. This lightened the load for our retail partners and mitigated the impact of a serious challenge to their trade.

Centra were not found wanting in supporting our retail partners when the need was most.

Q: How would you sum up your main point of difference from the competition?

A: Our partnership model with our independent retail partners is our real point of difference and that has been reinforced very strongly over the past number of months. The strong lines of communication between Centra and our retail partners means that no matter what the issue, retailers know they can speak to somebody immediately and start working towards a solution.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, this meant that Centra and our retailers were working in an agile and innovative manner on a daily basis responding to the ever-changing environment we were working in. This allowed us to maximise product availability, provide a best-in-class social distancing response to protect staff and customers and continue to expand our product range and ways of working without missing any sales opportunities. A measure of the confidence our retail partners have in the Centra brand is that existing Centra retailers have opened three new Centra stores in the past number of weeks in what is the most challenging of times.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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