McDade’s Centra Clogher – hungry for more!

McDade’s Centra Clogher – hungry for more!
As the 2023 Store Manager of the Year winner, Wendy Camley knows the hard work and dedication required to run a busy, successful store. And as she tells NR, the sweet taste of success has only made McDade’s Centra Clogher hungry for more.

The last five years have been a period of growth for McDade’s Centra Clogher, with an extensive renovation completed in 2019. A new forecourt was added and store expansion, all culminating in a significant boost to the local community and economy – and saw them Highly Commended in Forecourt of the Year Category 2 at last year’s NR Awards.

Owned by retailer John McDade, the store has developed substantially since taking over the site in 2007, with improved access, additional car parking and customer toilet facilities all introduced, providing enhanced convenience to local customers and commuters on the main Belfast to Enniskillen route.

While sales were modest when they first bought the site initially, the store soon gained momentum, which Wendy said was the result of hard work and responding to consumer needs.

“During the first couple of years we focused on extended opening hours, improving the product range, adding an off licence and developing a coffee and hot food operation,” said Wendy.

“In 2019 we added a new forecourt and renovated both out and up. We extended our storeroom, changed the overall layout of the retail store, moved and extended our deli, added a seated area and self-service tills and gained three large offices and a brand new canteen upstairs.

“We introduced an ice cream ‘corner’ that serves gelato ice cream, whippy, milkshakes and lots of other treats. We extended our coffee service by adding another machine, bringing us up to three Frank and Honest machines with lots of added offerings on display at the coffee dock.”

Store owner, John McDade

Seeking to improve even further and provide more convenience and offerings for their customers, they implemented a ‘mini refit’ last year.

“We felt the entrance to the shop itself needed to open up,” explained Wendy.

“We moved some confectionery shelving away from the entrance, which opened up a lovely big space. We installed two additional spider fridges here and got after ready meals.”

In addition, they made the tills, gelato counter and self-service tills more visible, thus improving the overall flow of their footfall, and added four bays of take-home snacks at the entrance of the off sales and a four-sided cube of hanging bag sweets.

“We have enjoyed great growth in impulse and convenience since then. We moved the home bakery stand and put real focus on timing of bakes as well as quality and merchandising. Again, this has allowed us to see significant growth in the department.”

There have been advances too in the technological aspect, with a Glory machine installed, which Wendy said has been a factor in reducing wages and inaccuracies with cash handling.

“The Kelsius system has also proven to be a great success for us,” added Wendy. “We now have a streamline, paperless system that allows us to sustain our high standards in cleanliness and food hygiene throughout the whole store.”

Most recently, they added an additional retail unit, Skipper Jacks, specialising in premium quality takeaway foods to complement their hot food operation on site.

“We have developed a Gourmet burger range and this, along with our unique recipe for freshly battered Skippers Cod, form the basis of the more popular options from our Skipper Jacks menu.

“The online ordering facility is proving very popular with repeat customers. 2024 will see us really pushing for more momentum here.”

On top of this is their popular deli, which Wendy adds is key when it comes to profit and margin.

“There are great opportunities there for high profit margins, albeit somewhat difficult to keep on top of all the variables within this department.

“Impulse lines are also a key driver for us. We have a lot of passing trade, so it’s important for us to use offering and strategic merchandising to maximise sales in this area. We have found that since covid, a lot of folk are having nights in rather than going out, so linking departments has worked really well for us, such as off sales and snacks.”

‘The online ordering facility is proving very popular with repeat customers. 2024 will see us really pushing for more momentum here’

As Wendy outlines, these offerings are just some of what makes McDade’s Centra stand out from its rivals.

“We have a lot of features in our store that set us apart. The building itself is a lovely space to shop, lots of car parking and we strive to provide all that the customer may need.

“The one thing that I would say stands out the most is our staff. We have a real mix of staff from long-standing members of 15 years and more, new staff who are just starting out and all that’s in between.

“We work hard to create a hard-working, fun culture. We all love the craic and that brings a good vibe, good attitudes and rubs off on the customers.

“Our department managers care about their departments. They take pride in overseeing and being the driving force behind those departments and are motivated when they see success and growth.

“We also make time to chat with our customers. We are very aware that some people come into us just for that and maybe are the only people they will see and talk to all day.”

Overall, Wendy adds, the majority of their staff want the business to thrive and are proud to be part of that success.

“That allows us to get the best out of our people and has proven to be the backbone of our business.”

With approximately 51 staff members at the store, Wendy’s 13 years of experience as store manager help ensure she can motivate and look after the whole team.

“I look after training in terms of enrolment on the Musgrave Training Institute. With regards to basic job training, I have senior members of staff who implement that for me, and then I monitor progress.

“I train department managers myself on the job, however most of them are long-standing, so I haven’t had to do that in a while.”

A qualified food technologist, retail was never a sector Wendy had planned to get into. It was during her studies that she worked part-time in a Centra close to where she lived.

“When I qualified, I needed a full-time position while I was on the look-out for lab work and I ended up working for John in his Ballygawley store. I had zero experience in management, in fact it frightened the life out of me, the thought of being in charge. He talked me into it and the rest is history.

“He moved me over to his Clogher store a year later and I have been there since – now he can’t get rid of me!”

It was a testament to John’s faith in Wendy and her adeptness and capabilities in the job that saw her enter and ultimately win the Store Manager of the Year Award at the 2023 Neighbourhood Retailer Awards, something she describes as a real shock.

Wendy Camley with Nikki Murran (from award sponsor, Excel Recruitment)

“I just do my job every day and have never really thought of being awarded for doing so.

“During the process, I was uncomfortable talking about myself and what I bring to the table as store manager. However, afterwards I actually had a real sense of pride in myself and the team.

“We were delighted to get into the final and when John sent 12 of us to the awards night, we were buzzing! We were over the moon when the store got Highly Commended in one category and then I won my category.

“It was just a great night and it has given us the drive and motivation now to enter again next year and strive to win more awards – so watch out, McDade’s Centra Clogher are coming!”

Wendy’s commitment, drive and pride in her work are all evident and notably it’s her dedication to helping others succeed which comes to the fore.

“I love my job (most days!) I love the customers and the staff I work with. I love to see the business succeed year on year and I love having a key role in that success.

“However, one thing that always stands out for me is when we employ a young person who literally has no experience, is terrified and has no confidence in themselves. Through time and with some patience and perseverance they learn, gain more confidence and start coming out of themselves.

“They start to show real promise and all of a sudden, they have become a key member of staff, with a great attitude and a strong work ethic. This doesn’t happen all of the time, and it’s getting harder and harder to develop those people, but when you do and you see them in the future having great success of their own, that makes it all worth it. For me, that’s achievement.”