Getting extra with Today’s

Husband and wife team Darren and Karen Craig

NR talks to Darren Craig from Today’s Extra Spencer Road in Derry City as they ring in the changes for 2015.

Husband and wife team Darren and Karen Craig have become embedded into daily life in the Maiden city.

Relied upon by local commuters and nearby health centre visitors for the past ten years, the 1,000 sq ft Spencer Road store has been punching above its weight since opening.

Now its service to the community has been rewarded, after finishing as runner-up in Today’s Symbol Retailer of the Year competition.

The shop overcame competition from over 600 stores across the UK on March 10 to make it to the final stages of Today’s prestigious Trade Show Awards Dinner in Ascot.

“It was really good to get it,” Darren told Neighbourhood Retailer. “We were surprised and delighted. We have put in so much hard work, and we’re glad it’s paid off.”

Although many of his customers are yet to find out about the runners-up prize, Darren said he would be promoting the accolade in-store, and that he expected a good response among his regulars.

Craig's Today Extra 005

“When they see it, I’m sure they will be pleased for us, but they won’t be that surprised, I don’t think. They know we make the effort.”

It’s a double celebration at the store this month, with a refit and general make-over completed in mid-March, and Darren has been pleased with the reaction so far.

“It’s created more shelving and it has made managing our categories better,” he said.

“It should make a big impact on sales – and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. It’s already attracted lots of comments from people who have found it easier getting around the shop. They seem to be enjoying the store more and staying longer, which is great.”

Speaking about the support he received from Savage & Whitten Wholesale, Darren said the Wholesalers & Today’s Group had helped with every aspect of creating the new-look store.

“They were of great help and support,” he said. “They did the plan, designed the make-over, and added a few different features and things to make it more modern and make the shopping experience easier.”

Darren and Karen joined Today’s almost exactly three years ago after going it alone for some seven years and 2015 marks their first decade in business.

Since their decision to adopt the Today’s brand in 2012, the shop has continued to gain favour among key customers, and according to Darren, it has been attracting people in greater numbers.

“It’s a really strong brand,” Darren said. “People can see many of our lines represent good value. When we changed over, we had a good response from our customers. They commented that the offers were good and we’ve been stronger, better and busier since we joined.

“They have come far as a brand, and we have come far with them. We’re planning on staying with them in the future – it’s working for us, and you don’t fix what isn’t broken.”

Craig's Today Extra 001Revealing one of the secrets of his shop’s success, Darren told us his recent new re-scan till system installed last year had been a big success making the day to day running of the shop a lot easier. The rescan till is managed and maintained by S&W Wholesale.

“Today’s own-brand products have also been proving really popular, and we stock a lot of it. Customers know it’s value for money, so it’s doing us a lot of good.”

Although the past few months have been successful for Darren and Karen, it hasn’t all been plain sailing, with the imminent laws governing cigarette gantries proving a frustration.

While the Spencer Road shop is ready for the ban on the display of tobacco products for smaller stores, Darren said he is struggling to see the sense of the tougher regulations.

“We are ready for it,” he said. “We’ve already got new doors on the gantry, which means they’re closed to customers already. They’ve been on for two months, but I really can’t understand the changes, and some of the new rules really are a bit confusing.

“As far as plain packaging goes, that’s also a difficult one. I can’t see it affecting sales, and I don’t see how it’s going to make any difference.”

But good times remain steadfastly ahead for Darren, who is more excited about the arrival of a new line that is already proving to be a hit before even reaching the shop.

“We’re preparing to be the first shop in Derry to stock Morelli’s Ice-Cream,” he said. “A lot of people go on holiday from here to Portstewart, so many would know the brand well.

“We’re going to be stocking nine different flavours, and people can’t wait for it to arrive. It’s amazing the response we are getting.”

With a prestigious award, and a successful partnership entering its fourth year, Darren and Karen’s store is ready for the good times to continue with what’s sure to be a bumper summer.

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