Value by name, value by nature
The bold decision to move Value Centre Mullingar to a new 35,000 sq ft building, is a credit to both BWG,and the Mullingar team, says manager Joe Farrell
16 June 2010
Lough Sheever Corporate Park,
Owner: Joe Farrell
Size: 35,000 sq ft
As its many retail customers will know, Value Centre Mullingar recently more than doubled its size to boast a sales floor over 35,000 sq ft. Naturally, manager Joe Farrell has been delighted with the advantages this has created for his busy wholesale outlet –which records between 700 to 1000 transactions each week alone. Sitting in his office which overlooks a window down into the warehouse area and delivery bays, he explains that on the topic of deliveries, the new expanded site has allowed for much greater efficiency.
“For instance, we would have had to order Coke twice a week to make sure we had sufficient supplies. Now we can take a container of Coke and put it up on the racks and we’re always in stock. From that point of view, it’s extremely beneficial and a big change for us.”
And parking spaces, which could prove a bone of contention at the Value Centre’s previous Canal Avenue site, just off Mullingar’s town centre, are now available in ample supply. Whereas previously there were just eight car parking spaces, which unsurprisingly could prove particularly difficult during Fridays and at Christmas, the outlet now has 50 marked parking spaces and “could park another 50 customers if necessary, without any problems.” The store also has a separate car park for delivery vehicles, so customers are not in any way inconvenienced by their comings and goings.
What’s more, his Value Centre has also been able to expand its lines stocked on the sales floor, since it made the move to nearby Robinstown. Instead of “confining ourselves to certain lines,” we can now carry “the full range from each supplier,” explains Farrell.
More space has also allowed for key labour-saving benefits. “We now have a thousand pallet spaces on the floor,” he notes, “so it means instead of handballing cans of coke or peas and beans we can push in a pallet. It looks a lot better, it saves a lot of time, and it’s much easier upon the staff.”
A credit to BWG and staff
On the topic of his staff, Farrell says he has an extremely loyal team. “I have one guy here over 40 years, five or six over 30 years, and most have been here for around 10 years.
“I think for BWG to invest in a state of the art building here, shows a tremendous respect for the staff in Mullingar…especially when you hear of all the businesses and shops that are closing down. It’s a credit to both sides; to BWG who had the foresight to do this, and also to our strong staff because we had the business here to make the expansion worthwhile.”
Farrell himself has many years of both retailing and wholesaling experience under his belt. Prior to joining BWG at the Value Centre in Mullingar some 25 years ago, he worked for the well-known Isle of Mann entrepreneur Albert Gubay at his Irish venture, ‘3 Guys.’ Incidentally, the 82-year-old businessman earlier this year fulfilled ‘a pact with God to help make him a millionaire’ by donating £480 million to a charitable trust. Farrell describes the 3 Guys chain started in the late 70s as “the Aldis and the Lidls of the time” – with probably 500 lines in a 10,000 sq ft building where everything was on pallets.” He managed the Mullingar store which was later acquired by Tesco and then Five Star, before the company pulled out of the market in the late 80s and he was forced to look for a new job.
After a few months break, Farell completed an interview “at the old cash and carry back in Canal Avenue with John Flynn and Gordon Campbell, who is now head of Spar worldwide… I was told I had a job before I left, and here I am,” he laughs.
Highs and lows
With a career in wholesaling spanning several decades, the Value Centre manager has seen his fair share of highs and lows in the trade. “Recession is nothing new to me. So when the reps come back and tell me our competition is doing such and such a thing; I have a good look at it and because we’ve a strategy to deal with it, we won’t panic.”
In fact, despite the country’s pre-Celtic Tiger economic turbulence, Farell says he can remember only “one bad year” throughout his time at the Value Centre. “It was when the Mullingar bypass opened…the traffic subsequently bypassed Kinnegad, Clonard, Enfield, and we supplied all the pubs, eating houses and shops all up along there. As a result, in just one month we lost about €30,000 turnover.”
Having survived a sudden decline of such magnitude, Farrell is adopting a positive approach to the current economic malaise, and says he is constantly trying to negotiate the best possible deals with his suppliers.
“We would do our damndest to try and satisfy our customers,” he declares. “If it’s about price or extra value we will sit down and talk to them. We have tremendous offers all the time, and send out monthly flyers advertising offers to all our customers. We also do local special offers, where we tailor the local promotions to the local person, whether that be the publican, the off-licence or the hotel or grocery outlet.”
However, while Farrell appreciates that over the last two years, value has come to the fore, he maintains that “price is not everything…We have always been very strong on service levels, having an in-stock situation all the time, delivering product upon time, delivering it in good condition, and ensuring the guys on the trucks are looking after the customers, and leaving products wherever they need them in the store.”
The experienced manager also appreciates the importance of each of his three reps maintaining good individual relationships with customers. “It’s very important to get round to all our customers,’ he says. “We would visit every one of our customers at least once a month, while some will get a weekly call, and some a fortnightly call.
“We also do telesales and have a list of customers that we ring everyday and would phone around 100 customers everyday. Before the truck goes out to a specific area, there’s always a check done to see if there’s any customers missing and if there is, we will ring that customer to see if everything’s okay or if there’s an order needed.”
Excelling in customer service
In fact, Farrell says some customers have been with the store as long as his longest-serving staff, and they have subsequently developed excellent relationships. The majority, 75%, of his retail customers would be independents, while the centre also supplies shortages or top-ups to BWG stores including Spars or Maces, and fully services 15 XL shops, which he notes, are performing “very well.”
Farrell says he prefers working with business people who know what they want. “I’ve tremendous respect for anybody who runs their own business and makes a good living, maybe employs three or four people. From a business point of view, they’re much easier to deal with than the public…It’s on a different level if you like.”
He’s currently working on developing new similarly strong relationships. Since the move in February, the store has expanded sales out into Longford and Tullamore, and he has been “delighted with the response” from these areas in part bolstered by the fact the new location prevents customers becoming stuck in traffic for Mullingar town. “Our aim is to increase sales all the time,” he says in a confident tone. “Everything’s going well for the moment and if it continues that way, we’ll be very happy.”