Centra and SuperValu set to transform stores…

Musgrave NI’s Centra and SuperValu Sales Director, Nigel Maxwell, reveals the Group’s plans to work with its retailers to transform approximately 100 stores over the next 18 months.

The Musgrave Group announced earlier this year that their focus was turning to NI, and it seems they meant it.

“Musgrave know the modern shopper has moved on considerably since the pre-recession, ‘big shop’ days”, says Nigel, “and we have carried out substantive research into current behaviours, paying close attention to shopper missions.  We are now reinvigorating our brand offer completely to ensure the business is focused on today’s consumer.”

The fruits of their work over the past few months have come to a head in two “stake in the ground” stores – Centra Portaferry and SuperValu Fintona.

Both shops have been a testing ground for Musgrave’s radical reassessment of their format, with both representing a typically-sized store of each brand and both owned and operated by experienced, committed independent retailers.

2The new brand offer was placed into each, with new signage, product ranges and store layout. This isn’t a surface-only change – 90 per cent of each store was taken away and replaced.

“The idea was for us to find out what worked and what did not,” Nigel told us. “What we found is that everything we changed has worked, and now we have come up with a model we are going to roll out throughout the network.”

Musgrave are not used to doing anything by half, and it showed as Nigel expects all 115 stores in the Centra and SuperValu network will be refitted within the next 18 months.

Giving us an insight into how the new-look stores will be set up, he said: “The stores will now have greater focus on areas such as coffee, food-to-go, meal solutions and fresh fruit and vegetables. A huge emphasis will also be on the store environment. Through enhancing all these areas, we will improve sales and margins for our retailers, which will ultimately benefit us – that way, everyone gets a return.”

Nigel said a number of refurbishments are already on the way, and that the amount of work in the pipeline is unprecedented.

“I’ve never seen this level of interest from retailers looking to carry out major refurbishments” he said. “It’s a challenge, but an exciting and rewarding time to be involved with the Centra and SuperValu brands.”

Both Karen & Garvan Hegarty, owners of SuperValu Fintona, and Centra Portaferry’s Declan Watson will be explaining the benefits of the new-look stores to their fellow retailers at the Supervalu and Centra Retailer Forums taking place in November.

The event will also detail other brand developments and update retailers on the plans for 2016.

“We’ve put together a DVD showing how the shops were before and after being redeveloped, and tracking the sales growth every week.” Nigel said. “We’re open and honest about sharing these across our retailers as we believe all will be inspired by the success”.

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All stores are expected to be refitted by the middle of 2016, and will feature new food and coffee to go options

Neighbourhood Retailer’s August edition featured Centra Portaferry following its reboot, and heard from owner Declan Watson how customers had reacted to the reinvigorated visage.

“The light is amazing,” Declan told NR earlier this year. “It opens up the entire store and gives the place a definite vibrancy. We took down the large shelving in front of the windows, replacing them with smaller display units and removed the window graphics to let in more natural light. Customers have reacted to this simple change by spending a lot more time browsing than before. New brighter LED lighting and new flooring, combined with the new in-store communications have made the store much brighter and fresher.”

With the store look alone shedding new light on Centra’s updated offer, the future looks bright for Musgrave.

It would be difficult to find a better time too, as the economy creaks back into growth, and retail enters investment mode after seven years of tightening belts.

However, Nigel refuses to be complacent.

“There’s a mixed view on the recovery,” he said. “It’s true there has been a lack of investment by retailers in recent years, but there are early signs banks are keener to lend and that’s enabling some retailers to go out and invest. But consumers are not totally out of the doldrums yet.

“More people are shopping in convenience stores – little and often – and we’ve completed a lot of research this year, looking at their missions, such as ‘food for now’ and ‘food for later’. That has led us to introduce new range of pre-prepared meals that are convenient but healthy and good value.”

As Musgrave tailors their range to match the new phase of shopper demand, Nigel – who is also Chairman of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) – said he knows retailers are dealing with pressures from many fronts.

“With the recent rates revaluation, the majority of our retailers saw an increase, and now with the National Living Wage coming in, there is a lot of pressure out there,” he said.

“But this new wave of investment will create jobs, encourage more spending, and get more local people into our stores.”

And with Christmas just around the corner, Nigel said it was an “exciting time” for the company.

“We’ve really focussed on new product ranges and seasonal products,” he said. “We’ve introduced new party foods, and chilled desserts, and we see ourselves being in a better place than before.

“Our fresh range is also more competitive than ever, and there’s no longer any reason why people can’t do their entire Christmas shop in a SuperValu. We have all the products that you’ll need.

“The days of the ‘big shop’ are not necessarily over, but shoppers are going to get more confidence that there is a comparable range in our local convenience stores.”

Asked whether all these changes will lead to expansion of Musgrave’s current network, Nigel said he was very optimistic.

“The impact of changes like this won’t be overnight,” he said. “But when retailers see these new refits, and with Musgrave’s strong reputation, the effect can only be positive.”

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