Lynch’s Greysteel marks second birthday with NR Newcomer Award win
Amidst celebrating its second birthday, Lynch’s EUROSPAR Greysteel collected their third award win this year, when they scooped the Newcomer of the Year Award at this year’s NR Awards. Area Manager, Alastair Connor reveals the story behind the group’s eighth store and the joy at the team getting the recognition they deserve.
Nicholl Oil opened their new forecourt on the site in May 2020 with the shop built and left vacant until Lynch’s Foodstores took over the store in August 2021, when they commenced work developing their latest EUROSPAR store.
Requiring a full fit-out from scratch, it was all systems go, with an intense works schedule carried out in just under three months.
“It was roughly a year and a half in the planning,” said Alastair. “Work started in mid-August 2021 to fit out the store and 11 weeks later we opened our store to the public on time.
“On completion of the store, we opened on Thursday 21st October with the old Centra store closing on 20th October. In early 2022 the old store was demolished with four new units replacing the old building and additional car parking added.”
The store now stands at 5900 sq ft with a Nicholl Auto 365 24hr forecourt on site. Fifty-six local staff work in the Greysteel store, headed up by store manager, Gregory Nicholl, with Gregory and 15 staff members coming across from the old Nicholl’s Centra store at the time Lynch’s opened, with most of these staff members still working in the store.
Bringing a host of up-to-date services to the area, the Greysteel facility has a forecourt providing diesel, unleaded, Ad Blue, HVO Renewable diesel and kero, airline and water facilities, vacuum system and air freshness unit, coal, logs and sticks, 80 free car parking spaces, customer toilets, electric car charging point, external ATM, Post Office and mail drop-off facilities, PayPoint and Lottery.
Their in-store offerings include butchery, Lynch’s own brand ready meals, hot and cold deli food to go, double coffee machine, produce, chilled foods, bread and cakes, grocery, frozen, Scoop ice cream, Tango Ice Blast, news and magazines, tobacco and vaping and free home deliveries.
The eighth store acquired by Lynch’s Foodstores group, Alastair said the village in Greysteel was “overdue” the new store opening.
“The old store on the site was well past its time and lacked investment. The locals come from all around to shop our store,” said Alastair.
“With 80 free car parking spaces customers find our store easy to access and shop freely. Setting and maintaining the highest of standards is critical to the success of our business.”
Fending off the competition at the Crowne Plaza Belfast on Friday 20th October, Alastair and Gregory were on-hand to collect the Newcomer of the Year award at the 2023 Neighbourhood Retailer Awards, and afterwards spoke of their delight at the win.
“It’s a genuine pleasure for myself as the Area Manager to see our staff recognised and rewarded for their continuously high levels of service to their customers and their community and these awards are recognition for all of them,” said Alastair.
“You cannot operate without good people, and we are very lucky in that respect. Our staff are well known in the community and that is a big draw for our customers, when they see familiar faces then they come into the shop.
“As the Area Manager of this store, the team at Greysteel deserved the recognition for their hard work and dedication, which has been a key factor in winning the Newcomer of the Year award. Following on from our success at the UK Retail Industry Awards and UK Forecourt Trader awards, this latest success has just capped off what has been a truly rewarding year for everyone associated with our Greysteel store.
“We were delighted to win Newcomer of the Year. It was great for the team to get the recognition they deserve, given the quality of all this year’s finalists and they got lots of praise on social media from our customers for winning such a high-profile award.”
In August this year, they moved across to Henderson’s ASR Rexel ordering system for grocery, tobacco and frozen, a move Alastair said has seen them reap the benefits.
“It implemented a true sales-based planogram and completely automated ordering system. Whilst it is like the previous system, this new system is more precise and has taken not only these categories, but the rest of the store to the next level on many fronts.
“With the new system, we are first to market with new lines and this keeps our range current and fresh. We quickly saw the benefits as we truly hit 24/7 availability and resulting growth of extra sales especially around delivery days where the faster lines, at times, were out of stock on the morning of a delivery.
“This has also made working stock more efficient and also reduced overall stock holding, freeing up some capital back into the business.
“We have plans in early 2024 to introduce self-scanning check-outs and electronic shelf edge labels which we introduced to our recently renovated Trench Road store last month. Even though we are only a month into working with this new technology, we can see the massive benefits to our business, with a full roll-out next year across most of our stores planned.
“We receive six fresh orders a week and in May of this year we moved to same-day delivery for fresh. We can now place an order by 10am and this delivery is dropped into our store later that same day, meaning ordering is more accurate and minimising any gaps in our fresh range.”
‘The team at Greysteel deserved the recognition for their hard work and dedication’
Technology is an important tool across all aspects of business, with social media an increasingly vital part of the job for independent retailers, allowing for immediate contact with their customers, building and establishing relationships.
“Social media is an important tool and the impact is huge,” said Alastair.
“We actively post daily and our store team all contribute to the content we post. Obviously, it’s great to be able to promote our deli, new products and promotions, but we find it’s a great way to build a sense of community with our customers.
“A great example of this was our coffee morning in September for Cancer Fund for Children NI. Our staff really got behind this event and by engaging with our customers on social media in the lead up to this event we created a buzz in the store that morning, which helped us smash our 2022 figure and we raised over £11,763 for such a great cause.”
With 452 staff employed across their head office and nine stores, Lynch’s know better than most the financial challenges the industry is facing, as Alastair explained they have made concerted efforts where they can to address these challenges.
“Inevitably, we face increasing energy costs, like so many other retailers and we are making continued efforts to manage costs where possible. Everybody knows the challenges with energy costs spiralling and it has been hard to handle over the last year or so.
“We have done everything we can in store in terms of making efficiencies, efficient air conditioning, LED lighting and we have energy efficient refrigeration.
“We have a supermarket price file and Tesco Price Match on over 1000 lines. We provide a competitive price model for our customers with regular manager specials which are run across all Lynch stores.
“We are a community supermarket facility with a very good pricing structure, but there is no doubt there has been food inflation across the board. Our customers are very savvy and it’s in nobody’s interests to look at this as an opportunity to increase prices, our customers will not forget that in the long run.
“There is no doubt that we have a lot of customers who shop regularly and shop more often. We have a great supply from Henderson’s and we have six days a week delivery of fresh food with same day delivery by ordering before 10am and receiving this delivery later that day. This means that our availability and product freshness is first class.
“However, despite this, one of the main challenges we face in our business is bringing in new people to the industry. Our biggest issue is getting manpower, be it deli staff, sales assistants or floor managers, this remains a big challenge for everyone in our sector.”
Amidst these challenges, Lynch’s continues to enjoy success and growth and recently opened their renovated Trench Road store, which was upgraded from a SPAR to EUROSPAR. With some small cosmetic work still to be carried out and the snagging list to complete, Alastair said they are delighted to be at the “finishing touches stage”.
“This was a major undertaking and investment in the site which seen our store size increase by 60% to create a new bright, fresh, spacious modern store.
“Its host of offerings include a deli and hot food counters, butchery, an ice cream counter, a Barista Bar coffee stand and a range of Lynch’s pre-packed meats and fresh food for consumer convenience. Self-service checkouts offer shoppers further convenience when they’re pressed for time.”
New to the store are the Glory Cash Management System, both back of house and customer facing, as well as Electronic Edge of Shelf Labelling and ASR software operated by Relex Solutions.
“It has been a tough and testing schedule of works on this store and the site remained open for trading during the work with some challenging days during the course of the 10 weeks of work,” added Alastair.
TO VIEW THE FULL FEATURE ON LYNCH’S GREYSTEEL IN THE NOVEMBER-DECEMBER ISSUE OF NEIGHBOURHOOD RETAILER, CLICK HERE