Hoey’s Mace – Cornering the market

A Store of the Year category winner and forecourt of the year category finalist, Hoey’s Mace in Andersonstown has proved itself to be one of NI’s best convenience outlets.

Hoey’s Mace Moneen filling station is located at a crucial nexus of West Belfast.

The winning team - managers Jean Noleen and from the deli counter Ann Gray

The winning team – managers Jean Noleen and from the deli counter Ann Gray

Perched on a crucial corner at the western end of the commercially vibrant Andersonstown Road and northern tip of the furiously busy Finaghy Road North, the Mace site and Solo forecourt is embedded in a hive of activity.

The site was been operated by Declan and Edel Hoey and family for the past 15 years, with the Moneen site the third in an arsenal that includes Mace sites on the nearby Stewartstown Road and in the Rosetta area of South Belfast.

The Stewartstown Road site, in fact, was a finalist in the Bakery of the Year category in this year’s Neighbourhood Retailer Awards, thanks to hard working manager Louise Reynolds, Fresh Food Champion Carla McGonnell, and their enthusiastic team of staff.

Speaking to Neighbourhood Retailer about the award-winning Moneen site was area manager Jim McConnan.

Jim has been overseeing the Hoey’s network for 18 months, following a 25-year career in the top flight of retail’s convenience and supermarket sectors.

Hoey’s Mace employs over 80 members of staff throughout

Hoey’s Mace/Moneen, Andersonstown.

Hoey’s Mace/Moneen, Andersonstown.

the group and regularly supports and contributes to the local community.

For Jim, one of the crucial aspects of the site’s success is its close partnership with Musgrave.

“The Mace brand gives us, as an independent retailer, a strong wholesaling link through Musgrave – one of the biggest wholesalers on the island,” Jim said.

“Being part of such a strong brand also means we have access to a lot of support with branding and access to up-to-date food-to-go and coffee solutions.

Hoey’s Mace/Moneen, Andersonstown.

Hoey’s Mace/Moneen, Andersonstown.

“It gives structure to what the retailer does, and the brand does a lot of the leg work.”

Jim explained that Mace provide fresh promotions every three weeks, with leaflet drops throughout the year, and POS information highlighting the forthcoming sales to customers.

“Many people will shop here because of the standard of the specials,” Jim said. “They’re looking for value, and if you have the range to go along with regular sales, then your customers are going to have a very positive opinion of the store – and that’s what keeps them coming back.”

Hoey’s Mace/Moneen, Andersonstown.

Hoey’s Mace/Moneen, Andersonstown.

The Moneen site has been a mainstay of the Anderstonstown Road for almost a generation, and its legacy is something Jim takes seriously.

“It’s a very well established site,” he said. “There is a massive effort on a daily basis from manager Jeannie Nolan and Fresh Food Champion Ann Gray (pictured centre), and by all the hard-working and dedicated staff who ensure the store is at the highest standard.

“That effort is what makes the difference.”

According to Jim, the gravitational centre of Hoey’s Mace Moneen is its popular deli counter serving hot and cold food from 6am every day.

“We have the classic full breakfast available each morning all the way through to an evening menu. The counter drives very strong morning and lunchtime business,” he said.

Hoey’s Mace/Moneen, Andersonstown.

Hoey’s Mace/Moneen, Andersonstown.

“We also enjoy very strong Sunday lunch take-up, with our roast chicken, ham and beef very popular as a take-home option. We have a full carvery option available every day, but it’s particularly popular on Sundays.”

The site also maintains an instore bakery, which Jim confirms is very popular with customers, while helping to add an attractive smell of warm bread to the store’s ambience.

“The smell of cooking in general really helps provide a relaxing and attractive environment for customers to shop,” Jim said. “We see the whole food-to-go and fresh coffee offer at the centre of the business, and it’s an area we have been very strongly focused on for the past 18 months.”

Almost half of the staff are deployed on the deli counter, many of which are fully fledged cooks, while others have full training in food preparation. But as many convenience store owners know, the deli counter brings with it some challenges.

“There is a lot of pressure involved in running a successful deli counter,” Jim said. “but you have to decide on the selling point of the store and what will make the site work. Once you have made that decision, you have to make it work.”

The popular hot food counter at lunchtime

The popular hot food counter at lunchtime

For Jim, success at the Moneen site boils down to three strands: looking after the top-up shopper; maximising the success of the food-to-go offer; and providing excellent customer service.

But for him, keeping on top of the food-to-go side of the business is where the most challenges lie.

“Our food-to-go offer includes take-home and eat, and take home and cook options, and that’s where we see the most growth,” he said. “With top-up shopping, food-to-go, and customer service, they are all hard to get right and maintain. That’s the main challenge we face, but we’re doing a good job.”

The Moneen site is put to the test every day, with hundreds of customers flocking to the site; hungry for the offers they find instore.

“It’s clear we’re doing something right, because we have so much repeat business,” Jim explained. “We also enjoy a lot of passing trade. It’s a very important site to us across the three-store network.”

Some tasty pastry

Some tasty pastry

The dedication of the staff earned the store the prestigious Neighbourhood Store of the Year Category 1 trophy at the recent Neighbourhood Retailer Awards, while the store also found itself a finalist in the Forecourt of the Year Award Category 1 section.

“Winning an award is fantastic,” said Jim. “It’s testament to the effort that all the staff showed. It’s quite a feat to maintain that level of effort day-in-day-out, so we’re very proud of the team.

“It’s a massive achievement to win a Neighbourhood Retailer Award. You’re facing stores from every other brand and fascia, so it’s something a store can only expect to achieve many once or twice, so we’re delighted.”

Now Jim’s attentions turn to the Christmas Period, and he is optimistic about what the festive season will hold for the store.

“I think there is a bit more confidence out there compared to a year ago,” he said. “We’re seeing that across all three sites. There is a bit more spending, and we are working hard to turn that into value for the business.”

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