It’s a great opportunity to bring people together

Neighbourhood Retailer spoke to Colin Conway as he looked ahead to the Food Force Ireland Direct Supply Trade Exhibition

Newell Stores, run by the Conway family operates two beloved stores in Co Tyrone.

The 13,000 sq ft Dungannon store has been serving the local community and beyond since 1988, while its 17,000 sq ft Coalisland outlet has embedded itself in the community since opening in 2014.

According to company director, Colin Conway, the stores are based around a “convenience supermarket” concept, specialising in fresh.

“We’ve really concentrated on fresh and grocery and have almost no non-food at all,” he told Neighbourhood Retailer. “Fresh is the main crux of the business, and we have a huge food-to-go and deli offer.

“A lot of what we sell from the hot food counter is made in-house, and we cover everything from breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“We also have a carvery on Sundays which is immensely popular, while on the deli we make everything ourselves including our own pies and scotch-eggs.

“Even our butchery counter prepares all the cuts in-store.”

Newell’s employs over 350 staff across its two stores, making it a major employer in the region. And Colin is proud of the stores’ popularity among people throughout the county and beyond who have made this a true destination.

“If you happen to be in the store at the wrong time on a Saturday afternoon, it could take you an hour to get back out,” he laughs. “Both stores are really a community meeting point, and have established themselves as the place to go to shop and see friends and family.”

The store’s other directors are Eugene and Marion Conway, with the Dungannon store run by Dermot Donaghy while Sean McLaughlin manages the Coalisland store.

Colin, 37, is the oldest of five siblings and has been running the business since 2004. He told us that he “grew up in the store” having walked the aisles since the age of eight.

It’s given him huge amounts of insight into the family-owned company and retail in general, with Colin specialising in the business’s accounting side.

 

But now, having become more heavily involved in the business’s general running and buying aspects, Colin was involved in the Food Force Ireland Direct Supply Trade Exhibition which took place on September 26.

“These events are always a great way of networking and it gives us an opportunity to see what new ranges suppliers are bringing into the market,” he said.

“It also gives us a chance to touch base with other retailers and it brings people together, giving them a chance to discuss the business and learn from each other’s experience.”

As a Nisa member, Colin spoke highly of Food Force Ireland describing them as “great for the independent market” and “beneficial for any independent retailer trying to make their mark on the market”.

“That’s the great thing about how FFI is set up,” he said. “It benefits the kind of thinking independent retailers are so good at. It opens up avenues and options and maintains flexibility. That means independents can tailor their range to suit their own customers.”

Colin explained there was a noticeable difference in the needs of Newell’s customers at the Dungannon and Coalisland sites, even though less than three miles separated them.

“There are different patterns in what customers like to see, and the different offers and promotions that perform well at the stores,” he said.

“We have to make ourselves aware of what these differences are so we can focus on what our customers need. Only by being independent under Nisa and maintaining our flexibility are we able to tailor our offer so carefully.”

And Colin was also keen to point out the advantage of meeting suppliers face-to-face, such as at September’s trade exhibition, especially when it came to securing big deals.

“I always think that striking good deals is what independents do best,” he said. “Suppliers too like to have that kind of bartering atmosphere, similar to the old market stall bargaining of the past. It can work well for both sides if it’s done right.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *