Creightons of Finaghy: synonymous with community retailing
Situated in the heart of the Finaghy area, Creightons of Finaghy thrives on serving the local community and proudly supports its customers in return. This dedication was justly rewarded when they were named Community Store of the Year at the 2023 NR Awards.
Trading since 1936, Finaghy was Creightons first store and now stands as a south Belfast landmark, with the Creightons name now synonymous with community retailing.
When WG Creighton opened Finaghy Garage in autumn of 1936, there were just a couple of pumps, however it has since grown to become a 3000 sq ft EUROSPAR store featuring a Post Office, deli, car wash and fuel store. And while the company has remained focused on brand building, it has done so by following more traditional values – building trust, focusing on community, finding their own solutions and being prepared to take risks.
Owned by Niall Creighton and his sister, Gail Boyd the company now extends to four sites, with the acquisition of JD Hunter Markethill in August 2022, but it was at Finaghy where it all began.
Boasting over 200 staff across the whole business, Creightons of Finaghy has approximately 60 dedicated staff members, including Store Manager Alan Gilliland, who started with the company back in 2006.
“Originally from a Post Office background, I joined as the Post Office Manager. We transferred an existing Post Office from one mile away into a brand-new location within the store,” said Alan.
“All the most up-to-date technology and new services helped us win the best Post Office in the whole of the UK in 2008.
“Over the years my role developed, to becoming the Assistant Store Manager and then the Store Manager when Balmoral opened in 2016. No two days are ever the same, there is always a new challenge to keep us busy.
“Working with such a great team though makes all the hard work worthwhile and I can honestly say I enjoy coming to work every single day.”
COMMUNITY AT ITS CORE
As Alan tells NR, the family-run business has a very strong sense of community.
“We try to give our customers everything that they may need on a daily basis and we focus heavily on seasonal events, bringing theatre into the store with our flower offering and seasonal displays,” explained Alan.
“Additionally, we support many charities from Cancer Fund for Children and Northern Ireland Hospice to our latest focus, the Trussell Trust Food Bank. This has proven a huge success with our customers filling a large wooden trough full of essentials, which is collected weekly.”
This support from their customers is made all-the-more important for Creightons, as they are all too aware of the challenges facing consumers. While inflation may be slowing down, prices are still high with consumers continuing to make some difficult choices and remaining more considered in their grocery shop.
“Our biggest challenge at the moment is still the cost-of-living crisis. People are definitely shopping smarter and being careful with what they spend their money on.
“Although our footfall is up and our basket spend is similar to last year, our overall costs are also up. With the latest increase in the National Minimum Wage coming soon, it is more important than ever to keep our loyal customers coming back day after day by offering value for money and great customer service.”
This determination and commitment to helping and supporting the community has remained steadfast over the years, and when it came to entering the 2023 Neighbourhood Retailer Awards, they had their sights set on the most important one for them.
“When we decided to enter into the awards, there was one category that we were determined to win. Creightons of Finaghy has been part of this community since 1936 and all our staff come from the local community.
“We support the local schools, sponsor the local football team and the Food Bank etc. The whole team buy into everything that we try and do, so we really wanted this one as a thank you to all the staff and to our loyal customers who support us every time we do something.”
Judges for the Community Store of the Year award were looking for stores who have engaged with and supported the local community, providing a wide range of services and products to meet the need of their customers.
At the NR Awards gala night on 20th October last year, host Donna Traynor revealed the winner had given details of how their long-term commitment and successful fundraising had established them as an integral part of the local community. This was done through a range of initiatives, events and activities designed to support local charities, groups and individuals.
The judges added that Creightons had demonstrated how they have reacted quickly to current issues and made efforts to provide targeted support.
Following their win, Alan told NR he had felt absolute joy at hearing Finaghy being named Community Store of the Year.
“This was so important to all the team, as we had worked hard all year with various groups and organisations in our local community to try and help in some small way,” said Alan.
“This has really inspired us to carry on and make 2024 even more rewarding and we will continue to work closely with those groups that we formed a bond with last year.”
INVESTING AND IMPROVING
This community ethos was front and centre of Alan’s and the teams’ minds during the pandemic, with everyone working hard to ensure the shop was well stocked and their customers felt safe when shopping there during tight covid restrictions.
“Trading has been very strong both during and since covid,” said Alan.
“Like all retailers, covid was challenging but we did all we could to make the customers’ shopping experience as easy as possible and like many others, we introduced a free delivery service.
“This was greatly received and strengthened our standing within the local community. Since covid, sales have remained high with our customers still preferring to shop with us, keeping it local.”
This has been invigorating for the store, with previous and recent investments a key driver in maintaining footfall and rewarding customer loyalty with more variety and fresher produce.
“Over the last five years we have increased the size of our fresh and produce offering, and installed new fridges to drive sales of Creightons own brand and Henderson’s Tonight’s Tea range.
“We also introduced three self-checkouts, allowing us to take away two of our manned checkouts. This allowed us to increase and improve our confectionary range, which has grown sales by 30%.
“We also created more of a gifting area, allowing us to develop this range more. This was very successful over Christmas and will be a major benefit at Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter.
“The introduction of Shelf-Edge Labels, ASR and Relex has all helped to improve stock availability for customers and reduce staffing costs.”
Creightons has always embraced technology, using it to increase sales and efficiencies whilst also cutting costs, added Alan.
“Electronic Shelf-Edge Labels and self-checkouts are the best examples of this,” added Alan. “We are always looking at what is new out there and what other great retailers are doing for inspiration.”
TO VIEW THE FULL FEATURE ON CREIGHTONS OF FINAGHY IN THE 2024 NEIGHBOURHOOD RETAILER YEARBOOK AND MARKETING GUIDE, CLICK HERE