Temptingly Moreish at Maxol Mace
Maxol Mace Kingsmeadow in Waterford, with its vibrant appearance and strong focus on customer satisfaction, is a fitting ambassador for Maxol's new brand tagline - ‘At the heart of it'. Gillian Hamill spoke to licensee Valdas Kirelis to learn more about how he believes the store and its new Moreish café concept, stands out from a host of competition vying for motorists' attention along the busy Cork Road
15 May 2014
Maxol Mace Kingsmeadow,
Licensee: Valdas Kirelis
Size: 1,000 sq ft
Staff: 18; four full-time and 14 part-time
When Valdas Kirelis and his wife Inga first moved to Ireland back in 2005, the young Lithuanian couple had originally only intended to stay here for a short sojourn of six months. The fact that ten years later, they have yet to move on to new pastures, is a testament to just how well the couple have adapted to Irish life and Valdas’ success within the retail trade. In fact, just four months after gaining his first job in Ireland, as a shop assistant in Maxol Mace in Walkinstown, Dublin, Kirelis was promoted to the role of store manager.
He was based at Walkinstown for one year when his then bosses Rory and Raymond Hannon opened a private-owned site in Carlow. Kirelis managed this store between 2006 and 2012, when his first opportunity to lease his own store arose. In August 2012 he took over the reins of the Maxol site on Waterford’s Dunmore Road. He still runs this 1,600 sq ft forecourt today with the help of its manager Laura Malenkiene, whom he describes as "a fantastic manager" who also helps out at the Kingsmeadow store.
An ideal qualification
With a degree in business management and marketing, which he gained back in Lithuania, in many ways this appears to be an ideal subject for a retailer to have studied. After all, given the many competing demands of the job, competence is clearly required right across the board, from accounting to marketing. However before arriving on Irish shores in January 2005, Kirelis’ retail career path was an unexplored option; he had previously worked in agriculture roles in Denmark and England.
A positive experience with the Maxol brand has since helped Kirelis progress throughout his journey in forecourt retailing. "I came here 10 years ago and I didn’t move somewhere else, I tried to stick with this company; I think it’s a fantastic company to work with. I think they co-operate with retailers well and it’s easy to do business with, with a lot of support." He has likewise benefitted from support and advice from BWG, with whom he is in regular weekly contact.
Brand new concept
What’s more, with a "very bright, open and welcoming" appearance, the new Maxol Mace Kingsmeadow site has only served to strengthen Kirelis’ good opinion of his partner brands. He explains that Maxol previously owned the site but it was an old forecourt, so they "demolished everything; they made a big investment and rebuilt the entire site and it opened three weeks ago." The new ultra-modern forecourt took four months to build and further raises Maxol’s profile in the city. In fact, the new image was only recently unveiled as part of a re-launch of the brand and the Maxol Group’s investment and expansion strategy. Since its first day of trading on 15 April, Kirelis says customers have most definitely been pleased with what they’re seeing. "The feedback from the customers is unbelievable, the good comments we’re getting. It’s very often, nearly every day; many customers will come in and shake our hand and say it’s a fantastic job, and it is fantastic."
The store’s design is a brand new concept for Maxol Mace. The offering includes Maxol’s new Moreish café brand which provides a range of gourmet sandwiches exclusive to Maxol, and acts as a focal point for the Cork Road outlet. Being able to deliver a strong branded food-to-go option is important in a store like Maxol Mace Kingsmeadow where the deli is "the most important department in the store and the strongest category in the shop". Alongside a seating area which can accommodate 27 people with a free WiFi connection, Kirelis notes: "Where we focus is on our food-to-go; on the quality, speed, service and friendliness of the service, that’s where we’re aiming to deliver excellence."
All in all, the new Kingsmeadow site provides customers with a top class forecourt experience which also includes ample car parking spaces, a Bewleys coffee dock, pay at pump facilities to speed up the purchase of fuel and modern toilet facilities.
Open around the clock
Fortunately, there is certainly no shortage of customers seeking out deli options around the clock, with the store serving hot food-to-go items 24 hours a day. As Kirelis explains: "The location of the forecourt is on the busiest road on Waterford, the Cork Road, plus there’s plenty of housing estates around us as well. The Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) is also close by so the location is excellent." Subsequently, while the store’s busiest time is at lunchtime, from 11.30am to 3.30pm, there is a steady stream of demand throughout the day.
Although the store closes every night at midnight, after this time customers can still be served through a hatch.
Unsurprisingly, this development has proved a hit with "taxi drivers, gardaí units, and students coming back from the pubs". What’s more, customers on the move during night-time hours will not find a reduced range at Maxol Mace Kingsmeadow. According to the retailer, all the popular deli products and speciality sandwiches will still be available 24/7. "Pizzas are available 24 hours a day; everything is 24 hours a day. You can get a chicken fillet roll or breakfast roll any time; you can get sausage rolls, jambons, anything you like." On top of this, the store also offers dinnertime options such as a carvery, chicken curry and beef stroganoff to name but a few of the choices available.
Kirelis was keen to re-introduce a 24 hour offering at the Kingsmeadow store, as before the new shop was built, the service had performed well at the old site and grown a name for itself locally. It also served as an important distinguishing factor that helps the forecourt stand out against a multitude of competition along the Cork Road. According to Kirelis: "There’s plenty of competition; it’s on the main road to Waterford and it’s packed with filling stations and shops." The store has also applied for a wine licence which he hopes to receive shortly.
Inundated by job applications
A major ingredient towards any store’s success is its staff and after being inundated by a deluge of applications, Kirelis is confident he has secured the best possible team. "I received around 550 CVs," he explains. "It was unbelievable; I was doing interviews from 8 o’clock in the morning up to 7 o’clock in the evening for three days." The high level of applicants can partly be attributed to the store’s proximity to WIT, where many students were eager to secure extra cash from a part-time role. In fact, out of a team of 18, only four of these are employed in full-time roles. While the deli staff are all highly experienced, many of the staff, several of whom are students, did not possess any prior retail experience. However far from being a disadvantage, Kirelis believes this is a bonus for the Kingsmeadow site. In his view, having the right attitude is the most important attribute for any staff member to demonstrate. Likewise, employees will not use procedures or habits they may have acquired elsewhere. "I like my staff to do things our way, the way we run the shop," he explains, adding, "there are staff that are not familiar with retail but it’s all about training". With this in mind, he adds: "It’s crucial to train your staff, communicate with them and make them feel happy."
At the heart of it
In keeping with Maxol’s new brand tagline, ‘At the heart of it’, the store, although at the time of our interview, had only been open for three weeks, is already playing its part within the local community. "Between our two sites, we are the proud sponsors of the camogie club here in Waterford, the under 10s and under 8s teams." The team is also set to sponsor the local girls’ basketball team in the near future, which will compete under the fitting name of the ‘Maxol Wildcats’.
Although food-to-go is a clear focus at the store, which Kirelis is concentrating on "driving as far as we can", he nevertheless feels that the store’s grocery offering does deliver value for money for customers. "I think for the space of the shop we do offer strong value; we have a strong value message in there," he comments. The shop participates in BWG and the Mace brand’s promotions which change every three weeks, of which he says: "We do implement them so I think it does drive the business."
Looking towards the future, the store hopes to have an official opening at the end of May. A credit to the Maxol Mace partnership, the Kingsmeadow store represents an investment wisely spent.