That winning feeling

Michael and Eileen McHugh
Michael and Eileen McHugh

The recent Daybreak Store of the Year competition was won by Michael and Eileen McHugh for their store in Greenville, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.



15 March 2011

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Michael and Eileen McHugh

Michael and Eileen McHugh


Daybreak – Greenville Stores,
Greenville, Enniscorthy,
Co Wexford

Owners: Michael and Eileen McHugh
Size: 1,400 sq ft
Staff: Ten

The McHughs beat off competition from a couple of hundred stores around the country to be presented with the top prize of Daybreak Store of the Year at a ceremony in Lyrath Estate in February. They were also the recipients of the Best Wine Category award on the night.

The Sligo natives only moved to Wexford about seven years ago after having spent a number of years running a Statoil franchise in Butterfield Avenue in Rathfahrnam, Dublin. They always had ambitions to rear their children outside of Dublin so had been looking out for an opportunity to move out of the capital.

The Enniscorthy store they finally settled on sits among a modern estate of 700 houses. Musgrave had flagged the store while the area was in development and were looking for the right people to take it on. “We realised there was an opportunity there for the right person,” said territory manager, Paul Mullen.

Although it is in a super location in terms of residential accommodation, it is in a cul de sac so doesn’t benefit from passing trade so the McHughs are very much focused on customer service and being a community store.

Daybreak2Store of the year

The Daybreak Store of the Year (SOTY) process is carried out over six months. Stores that make it to the final will have gone through a rigorous five audits and mystery shopper visits so standards need to be consistently high to get through to the final rounds.

Michael says that they have made it to the final round three times out of four so it was great to finally get the top prize. Speaking about the win he says: “We have always tried to keep the standards high in the store but standards across all the stores in the final rounds were very high too. We had done very well in the mystery shopper element so that probably helped our scores.”

The McHughs view the competition as an annual housekeeping exercise which helps to drive their standards.
Asked why he thought their store had come out on top this time, Michael says that although they always strive to keep the store to the highest standard, it also comes down to a bit of luck.

“Sometimes these things come down to something on the day. The SOTY final inspection is a point in time and you can be lucky that everything is just right at that moment.”

Territory manager Paul Mullen is not allowing Michael to be so modest. “The McHughs attention to detail was superb. They look after the small things that people take for granted like having everything priced, great hygiene standards, friendly customer service and are always trying to see things through their customers eyes. Also the staff they have working for them are excellent.”

Eileen says standards remain high because they have put very detailed systems in place. “We have daily check lists and systems in place. If a new member of staff starts they can slip into our system very easily,” she says.

Daybreak3Consumers have changed

The McHughs have seen a change in their customers in the last two to three years. “The whole customer focus has changed,” says Michael. “Price and quality are of utmost importance for the consumer now more than ever.”

Because this shop doesn’t have passing traffic they are always conscious of looking after the local trade.

“People are coming in and buying what’s on offer. We have our value statement, competing with the likes of the supermarkets on certain products. Someone coming into our store will get the same value on flash packed products as in the supermarkets and there are more and more products being flashed by suppliers these days. Even though spend is down, customer numbers are up.”

Although the McHughs benefited from the building boom like everyone else, Micheal says they never got complacent  or took it for granted. “We had the builders coming in but that was the cream. We never based our business on that trade because we knew it wouldn’t last forever. In the early days when the builders were around, it was certainly helpful with the bit of extra margin. When the builders were gone we were always going to be left with 700 odd houses and they were the people we were always going to be serving. They want a quality service, a fair price, in a proper environment.”

Cutting your cloth

The McHughs are well aware that they need to provide value but being a small store they also realise that they can’t keep cutting prices or they would have no margin at all.

“You can’t cut everything. You have to make a margin and we have cut our costs several times. We have always run a fairly tight ship but now it’s down to the nitty gritty. You have to be buying right. That is the key.”

Hard work doesn’t bother the McHughs but they admit that the cost of doing business is making life difficult for small businesses.

“We’re working longer hours and harder and are happy to do it because we’re still in business. The problem is that the cost of doing business in this country is off the scale. This isn’t going to end for another few years. It’s going to get worse because of the changes they made to social welfare. The money people spend in our shop is their disposable income so our turnover is coming under pressure. In the next two years, our value statement is going to be more and more important.”

Taking on an off-licence

Prior to Christmas the McHughs made the decision to expand their offering to include a full off-licence. Wine sales were always very strong in the shop but they needed to find new ways to increase turnover. There is great value on wine in store and Michael says they have to credit Musgrave for giving them great offers. “In fairness to Musgrave there is always a really good wine on offer. You need to have great value in wine. People very rarely look for top shelf wine anymore. We sell Hardys for €5.49 and Torres for €7.99.”

Off-licenceNow the most expensive wine they sell would be about €14.

“If people are going to spend a lot of money on wine they would need more choice than we have,” says Eileen. “We’ve always sold an awful lot of wine down through the years as we’ve been careful about pricing. We needed to be competitive so that if someone was in Dunnes they wouldn’t be bulk buying to try to save themselves money. They’ll come into us and buy as they need”.

By taking on the off-licence, wine sales have also increased. “The people who were going down the town on a Friday night to get beer are now coming into us and buying a bottle of wine too”.

Michael says that the key to running a successful small business is to watch every line and if it’s not moving replace it with something else.

“There is no point in me having a bottle of whiskey on the shelf for €25 when it can be bought down the town for €22. It’ll just gather dust. You’ve got to watch every product.”

Winning the Best Wine Category Award at the Store of the Year competition was a great surprise to the couple.

“We won the wine award first and we were delighted with that. We didn’t expect to win another award but we were absolutely delighted when we heard our names called again.”

To add to their excitement Edward Dillon sponsored the award and presented them with a trip to the Carmen Vineyard in Chile as a prize.

Growing rather than stagnating

Winning Store of the Year has also given the staff a bit of a boost. “It’s recognition for the work they have put in,” says Eileen. “It’s about keeping standards at a high level all the time. Everyone is tuned in. The saff don’t need any prompting.”  

The McHughs are under no illusions that the economy is about to get any better anytime soon but are geared up to do business in this new environment.

“This is the real world now”, says Micheal. “If you can accept the way things are now, you should be okay.”



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