COMMENT: customers want convenience and quality of goods and services

COMMENT: customers want convenience and quality of goods and services
Tom McAvoy, owner and director at Milestone Rathfriland.
After a most difficult trading year we have been able to become more astute at retailing. We have looked at many of our practices and made adjustments – something that will hold steadfast going forward, explains Tom McAvoy, owner and director at Milestone Rathfriland.

We came out of the pandemic tired, exhausted but elated to have navigated our way successfully through covid. We were filled with great expectations for a post pandemic hype in trade.

However, our expectations were soon diluted and decimated with the onset of a cost-of-living crisis, which saw energy prices escalate out of control. Our overheads skyrocketed like never before. Raw materials began to rise steeply. We tried to absorb some of the expenses, however very soon realised that we had to follow suit and increase prices in order to survive.

The government cap on energy was a small relief and give us some degree of reassurance and stability however, it was introduced very late for retailing.

In addition, the work force after Brexit and Covid changed dramatically. We no longer had EU citizens available for work useless they had previously obtained settled status. In addition to that, working from home became the norm and a more appealing option. Retail and hospitality suffered with the shortage of workers.

The situation, however, has become more relaxed as things gradually get back closer to the old normal with people feeling the need to communicate and socialise with others. And the importance of looking after your staff and ensuring working conditions are tip top, is critical.

Pricing continues to be a high priority and it is important to negotiate with suppliers and regularly check cost prices and adjust accordingly.

It is always important to keep standards high if you wish to continue to be successful. We have throughout this period continued to use the freshest ingredients without compromising on quality. We negotiated hard with suppliers to achieve the best cost prices. This has stood by us with customers still wanting high quality albeit competitively priced items.

Winning Retailer of the Year has greatly attributed to this with related social media posts catapulting Milestone Rathfriland as the ‘go to store’. Our online facility for cakes and seasonal products has been extremely successful. Customers can now ponder and choose at their leisure.

The restaurant facility onsite has been a great addition with many customers travelling a distance to the store. They can now enjoy good food and drink in a comfortable environment. Loft 56 has in addition been a great asset to promote community involvement with several parties and events held here throughout the year. I have found this has complimented the shopping experience.

I feel that 2024 will continue to be a challenging year. I think that we will benefit with having many services and products all under one roof. The customers want convenience and quality of goods and services. Online will grow and continue to be a necessary part of the mix. Discounted pricing will be paramount to ensure sales continue to hold up and grow.

Overall, I feel that sustainability will become paramount with a greater renewed focus on green issues within retailing. We will continue to work hard at being creative and going the extra mile with presentation, quality taste and pricing. We will concentrate on innovative ways to retail and ensure our focus is on green issues and the environment in 2024.