A Winning Partnership…

Nine years ago, husband and wife team Karen and Garvan Hegarty swapped a life in Co Down for  running a supermarket in Fintona, rural County Tyrone.

NR met the couple as they were about to launch their revitalised SuperValu store to learn about their life in retail and their new-look store.

Garvan said, “We returned to Northern Ireland from Melbourne Australia in 1997. Both Karen and I had always been involved in retail and it seemed like a natural fit. Karen’s father had owned a supermarket and butchery in Co. Down and I had worked in retail in NI and Australia, so we both had ambitions to own our own shop. We purchased the store in 2006 and only had a limited budget for revamp at that time so in terms of layout and design, it was a good traditional rural store but it wasn’t what we aspired to; we knew the place had more potential.”

Karen added, “Whenever we travelled, we were both drawn to those big continental style food markets with wide aisles, filled with a huge variety of fresh produce packed in crates and displayed beautifully. We wanted to create something like that for the community in Fintona, something with a real WoW factor. But in 2006, we didn’t think the market was ready for it. So when SuperValu approached us this year, with their new concept and ranges that included a significant focus on fresh, we were genuinely enthusiastic about the offer. It came at the right time for us and the right time for the market.”

DSC_3102You can definitely see Karen and Garvan’s store is bigger and brighter than before with a substantial fresh range.  I asked Garvan about this…

Garvan said, “Musgrave did a lot of consumer and market research and came up with a new format and ranges that fit the way people shop today. The new store design brings a lot more light into the store while the new colour schemes and in-store communications makes everything clearer and easier to shop. Working with the Musgrave design team, we opened up the whole shop by removing the bulk heads around the sides and tearing down an under-used stock room in the front. This gave us the room to create the impactful first aisle. The work was done relatively quickly and painlessly using local trades people and firms and it has made a huge difference to the store.”

Garvan added, “In the first aisle, we laid new wooden flooring to highlight to customers that they were in the fresh foods area. We brought in new LED lit refrigeration units throughout the store to display all the fresh foods at their best whilst also saving on energy. Musgrave were great at helping us to use the new space in the most efficient way so as to increase sales. We introduced a new bespoke ‘walk-around’ fruit and veg display, new spider fridges and wooden display tables for bakery, all to showcase the produce. We also brought in a free standing self-service hot chicken cabinet that has resulted in a three-fold increase in chicken sales to date.”

You can’t deny the popularity of the self serve rotisserie chicken. In the ten minutes I have been speaking with Garvan and Karen there must have been six chickens picked up by customers – not a bad thing for a wet and windy Tuesday. I ask Garvan about his commitment to fresh…

Garvan said, “Fresh is really important to us and it’s the way the market is going. As previous winners of UK independent Fruit and Veg Retailer of the Year, fresh plays a big part in this store. We always stocked a lot of fresh produce but shoppers didn’t see the full extent of what we had to offer. Now with the new format everything is highlighted and nothing is hidden. Musgrave helped us bring all of the fresh produce to the fore and like most independent retailers these days; we try to source as much of our fruit and veg locally when we can. Musgrave has a strong track record in this area, with, for example, an on-going commitment to source all fruit and vegetables from local suppliers when in season. This helps us not only provide the best local produce but to build a relationship with local suppliers.”

DSC_3214So apart from Fresh what other areas have you changed during the refit?

Karen added, “Every part of the store has been upgraded in some way but the Musgrave research identified three areas of opportunity: coffee, bakery and food to go.  Food to go is a big driver of footfall and sales so it was important we got it right.  We expanded the hot and cold deli areas and introduced a new range of gourmet sandwiches. These have proved very popular with customers – sandwich sales increased by 50% in the first week and have stayed there! While our hot deli now includes choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner with options including full Ulster fry, beef/veg stroganoff, curry, lasagne etc.

Bakery is also performing exceptionally well, with our new in-store bakery proving a big attraction with breads baked fresh throughout the day every day. We now have three times the display space with three bays filled three or four times a day. Musgrave advised us to bake small amounts regularly, so there is a constant supply of fresh bread for customers. This and the new display tables have helped us increase bakery sales substantially. For example, one of our local suppliers, H&H bakeries have seen sales increase by over 50% since their produce has been displayed on the new tables!”

Karen said, “Coffee is another area where we focused our attention. We had a new coffee dock installed with a new machine and improved bean, the machine offers a wide selection of drinks and optional syrups to add variety. Because of the smart way the dock is designed, we now have areas on both sides of the coffee machine for displays of confectionary and bakery. We use combination deals to help up-selling these areas.”

Garvan added, “With Musgrave, we added a number of new ranges to cater for changing customer requirements such as new ‘free from’ range for customers with special dietary requirements which has been a great success. We also stock the new locally produced Ready to Cook and Ready to Heat meal solutions in the new Fresh for You brand which is exclusive to SuperValu and Centra. This range has proved a big hit with customers and we have also introduced new meat ranges that are selling particularly well.”

Despite all the fresh produce, you still have a wide selection of ambient and frozen, how did you fit it all in?

Garvan said, “We made the space work better for us. We replaced the old coffin freezers and installed a new wall and well freezer in aisle four which gave us a lot more space.”

The store also boasts an extensive off-licence with exposed red brick and large selection of wines and craft beers, I ask Karen about this.

Karen said, “The off-licence and post office, are both big drivers of footfall and sales. The post office is newly installed since March and we expanded the off-licence significantly. We have stocked the off-licence with a large selection of wines from around world and craft beers from Northern Ireland and further afield. This has proven very popular and has helped us to attract new customers.

So is there a secret to your success?

Garvan said, “Yes. Work hard and know how to look after your customers.

This a true family business at the heart of the community with Karen, Connor, Laura and I, all as interested as each other in making it successful.

All of the staff understand our values and commitments – what it is we are trying everyday to achieve, and are at one with us as a terrific team.”

So when all is said and done are you happy with the results?

Garvan said, “Yes, absolutely. We now have a store that we are proud of, with an offer that is second to none. We are attracting shoppers from a much wider radius than ever before with people coming from Fermanagh and further afield – people who would normally drive into Omagh are now driving 10 miles in the other direction to come here. That is testament enough.”

Nigel Maxwell, SuperValu Sales Director said, “We’re delighted with the new SuperValu proposition and how it’s been delivered in Garvan’s store – which now showcases the best of SuperValu and represents a truly different and better offer, versus what we had before and also our competitive set. Whilst it’s still early days, the results to date have exceeded all expectations. Feedback from customers and from other retailers has been extremely positive and the Musgrave team are really excited about the potential of the new SuperValu proposition as it’s rolled out to other SuperValu stores over the next 12-18 months. My thanks go to Garvan and his team for all their hard work in implementing the new offer in Fintona and I look forward to seeing the store go from strength to strength over the coming months and years. ”

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