A golden year for McCool’s

A golden year for McCool’s
McCool's Ballymena won the Neighbourhood Store of the Year (Cat 3) at last year's NR Awards and Peter McCool is pictured with Kevin Killough and Hannah Donnelly with the award.

McCool’s relationship with retail began in 1973, when Peter’s father, Patrick started the business, having bought the site from BP, and as he explains to Neighbourhood Retailer, it’s a career he soon became passionate about.

“As we lived next door, I was always called in to help out and at 18 I started full time until I figured out what I wanted to do, and very quickly fell in love with retail,” he said.

“I have worked in the business full-time since 1981. In 1995 my brother, Michael joined the business and helped to oversee the raise and rebuild of 2002, after our father’s death in January 2000. Michael left the business in 2009, when he moved to London.

“Since then, I have been operating it on my own, with three truly great managers who really inspire their teams to great performances each day. I am very lucky to have my managers, Kevin, Rachel and Debbie who, along with their teams, help deliver the success that McCool’s has achieved.

Peter McCool outside the SuperValu Ballymoney store.

“Back in the seventies retailing from a petrol station was very different. The main lines were all car related; petrol, diesel, oil, fan belts, radiator hoses, fuses and so on, with very little emphasis on grocery items, all working out of an unbranded retail space of 400 sq ft.”


With a well-established Maxol station and tyre depot “almost directly opposite” McCool’s, the family worked hard to build up a reputation for great customer service.

“With constant reinvestment in improving both the facilities and our breadth of products, we steadily grew along with the housing being built in Ballee,” said Peter.

“From that small start of 400 sq ft, we continued to expand the shop bit by bit throughout the 70s and 80s, adding new tanks, putting up a canopy, and new pumps.

“Then in the mid-90s we signed up with Costcutter and the emphasis became more grocery retailing, operating out of a 1000 sq ft store.

“Upon the death of my father in 2000, we decided to do a raise and rebuild, demolishing both the house and shop, and the forecourt to build the current Phoenix.

“Over the last 12 years we have been trading as a Maxol fuel site and a Centra store. Last year we extended again and completely revamped everything in the store to help us create the McCool range of branded products, which have been received very well and give us our USP.”

‘We are passionate about the communities we operate in’

McCool’s Ballymena now boasts 49 staff, with over 200 staff across their three stores.

The support of the local community has helped cement the success of McCool’s, and the support they offer in return is something Peter is particularly proud of.

“We are passionate about the communities we operate in and believe that you get from the community, so we put into the community,” he said.

“We support local schools, local sports clubs and local community groups, as well as many smaller requests from our loyal customers. This McCool way is summed up in our mission statement – ‘to go one step beyond for customers and colleagues’.


Having a well-established business in Ballymena, Peter branched out to take on a second store.

“In 2010, I took on the formidable challenge of running Musgrave’s crown jewel, SuperValu Ballymoney, whilst at the same time completing a total refit and brand change in Ballymena.

“Having survived and thrived in that challenge, six years ago I was asked to turn around SuperValu Kells, which was not in great shape. With hard work from the teams in both the Ballymoney and Kells stores, who are committed to doing things the McCool way, I am very proud to have won SuperValu Store of the Year with both stores in five out of the last six years.”

The success for McCool’s continued, with 2022 being a “momentous year” for the group, which saw them complete the refit of all three stores, with a total investment of £1.3 million.

To top it all off, all three stores were nominated for Neighbourhood Retailer Awards in their respective categories, with McCool’s Centra Ballymena winning the Neighbourhood Store of the Year (Category 3) title.

“These achievements and the praise from other retailers who have visited our stores and seen the McCool range of products, as well as the sales growth in each store, tells us we are on the right trajectory,” said Peter.


“For McCool’s Centra Ballymena, winning the award was an amazing achievement, given the extremely tough competition out there.

Pictured at the Musgrave Store of the Year Awards in April 2022 when SuperValu Kells won the SuperValu Store of the Year Award.

“This award belongs to all the staff and was only possible with their hard work and dedication and they are justifiably very proud of it. I am personally very pleased to receive this most prestigious award on our 50th anniversary year and will only propel us to further our ambitions for the McCool Group.”

While future plans and developments for the group remain top secret, Peter said they are committed to “continued investment and consolidation”.

“The team has delivered the vision we wanted to achieve with the revamping of the store, developing the McCool range of products, which has grown throughout the store and gives us a unique selling point.

“Our attention to detail, energy and enthusiasm has provided us with a top-class store and is the envy of many. This outlook is replicated in our other two stores in McCool’s Supervalu Ballymoney and McCool’s Supervalu Kells.

“We have faced many changes over these 50 years but have always put customers at the forefront of what we do.”