Satisfaction is key for store manager Marie
Having been headhunted for a manager’s role for McGleenan’s Centra in Keady, Marie O’Neill has spent 20 years heading the store and its staff, helping to lead them to award wins and top recognition across the board.
Their most recent success saw the 7500 sq ft store take home the Overall Store of the Year at this year’s Musgrave Group awards, which Marie described as being a “wonderful surprise to win”.
Crediting her “fantastic staff” and their commitment to and enjoyment of their respective roles, Marie said they wouldn’t be able to “open the doors” without them.
“The most important part of the job for me is looking after the team we have here,” said Marie. “I would be the one who deals with the staff in relation to their job role. I have team leaders, but I like to get to know the staff themselves, what problems they might have and so on.
“With 85 staff, it can lead to some challenges, but I do feel we are very very lucky. We have some who have been here a long time with us. We know how each other works and it’s a good team environment. “I just love the people, I enjoy chatting and meeting people, it’s a great part of the job.”
STORE MANAGER ROLE
Marie said she “fell into retail by mistake” after completing a HND at technical college and was offered a supervisor role in local store, Curleys in Dungannon.
“I worked there for 10 years. It was a family-run business and I really enjoyed working there.
In 2003, Damien McGleenan was in the process of buying a small shop with a forecourt in Keady and knew Coalisland woman, Marie as they had both attended Texaco conventions over the years.
“He got in touch with me, saying he was looking for a store manager for the Keady shop and invited me for an interview. He took over the business on 1st July 2003 and I came on board as manager then,” said Marie.
The first shop renovation was carried out in 2007 with a hot food counter and butchery introduced. The store was extended with an off sales also brought in. More recently an extensive store renovation was completed, at a cost of £2.5 million and included a complete overhaul of the forecourt, with new pumps and tarmac added.
Marie described the last few years as “challenging” but ultimately worth it.
“It was a tough few years, obviously with covid and then before we were fully out of that we undertook another extensive renovation, which was a 10-month plan,” explained Marie.
“We have our hot food provision, which is open from 6am to 10pm, we brought in a new seating area, a butchery deck, new shelving, new refrigeration, freezers, new flooring, the works. It was a tough three years with all that was going on. When the renovation was completed, I could look back and see just how great it was.
“The staff were all on board with the work and renovations and we brought in new staff at that stage too. You can spend all the money in the world, but if you do not have the right people with you, it means nothing.”
AWARD WINS AND RECOGNITION
The hard work and difficulties encountered over the last three years were made worthwhile with McGleenan’s Centra Keady winning the Gold Award in the Centra Foodmarket category at brand owner Musgrave Group’s annual Store of the Year Awards, before going on to scoop the overall Centra Store of the Year title. The store was recognised for its high customer service standards and strong sales, driven by a hard-working team.
“We were hopeful, but it was a wonderful surprise to win, especially when there were other great stores that we were up against too.
“I was delighted we won and also for the staff. We work hard but they work as hard as we do, without them we could not open the doors.
“We would touch base with other Centra stores in Musgrave’s network and help each other out as best we can. It adds to the family feel of the stores and you get a lot of ideas from them too. There are other retailers who have come to the shop and it’s good to get ideas from each other. But of course, things that work in one place won’t always work in another shop.
“Our hot food and deli counters are our big draws, especially with the seating area. When our hot food counter closes, the chippy runs into the evenings. We have the offering of hot food from morning to night. The seating area is fabulous since it’s been done up and we see it growing. It currently seats 50 and is always busy.
“We have a production kitchen out the back, and all our dinners, including our Sunday dinners, are freshly made for our customers and at a fraction of restaurant prices.”
With 85 staff, including four or five who have been there “from day one”, Marie’s job centres on the smooth running of day-to-day activity while also ensuring staff are managed and supported. Staff training is a key part of this, with colleagues’ training regularly updated and new staff trained in the main aspects of the store.
“A lot of the staff are from Keady and the local area. It’s good for the customers as well as they see local and familiar faces when they come in.
“When staff start, we provide an induction, manual handling training, age-related training and a food hygiene course for deli staff. We also provide basic food training. Musgrave supports us with this through its online Learning Academy and we have a room dedicated for staff undergoing courses.
“We have a room here dedicated to online training through Musgrave and their learning academy.
“I have about 30 hot food staff and previously it was hard if I had to take away a number of them at one time for training or to update their training. Now we can do it here in the office, they can do it one at a time or if they want to do it at home, I can send them a link.
“There is also first aid training and indeed, one of our managers is also a first responder.”
Describing her job as “a bit of a mix”, Marie divides her time between paperwork in the office and spending time on the shop floor.
“I’m hands-on and if I’m there with the team on the shop floor, I feel you get more out of them and you can let them know they are doing a good job. As I say to Damien, it costs nothing to say to somebody that they’re doing well but it means something to them.
“They go home with a bit of job satisfaction and feel like they’re appreciated and valued. I have to say I love it and I have seen how the business has grown over the 20 years that I’ve been here. With the awards and all, it’s nice to know you are a part of that and what we have achieved.”
Marie is also quick to praise owners Damien and Frankie on what they have achieved.
“Damien said he wanted to create a community hub and that is what he has done. The customers know that if they go to Damien or Frankie that they will help and support them where they can. From charity events to team sponsorships, they are awfully good at supporting the community.”
In the current climate, shopping is now driven by convenience and Marie adds that the whole team at McGleenan’s Centra is trying to “cater for everybody”.
“Shoppers’ habits have definitely changed, I have noticed that, and we change to meet their needs. I find now more people are buying as and when they need to, and it also means they are cutting back on their waste.
“It’s all about convenience, shopping is now more focused on chilled and convenience. We would have a lot of commuters and passing trade also. We have got a good name for our hot food, as people have heard from others and they come along and try it out for themselves. It’s good to know that what we are doing is working.”
TO VIEW THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH MARIE O’NEILL IN THE JULY ISSUE OF NEIGHBOURHOOD RETAILER, CLICK HERE