Springisland Supermarket – a status symbol
Synonymous with serving the local community since 1997, Springisland’s status in County Tyrone only continues to grow. Having marked their silver anniversary last year, they continue to go from strength to strength as Management Team member, Emma Rice tells NR.
Established in 1997 by the Rice brothers, Emma’s grandfather and his brothers, they worked extremely hard to establish themselves. The family-run business is now in its second generation, with Emma’s father, Peter at the helm. Rightly proud of their unique farm to fork philosophy, Peter supplies the store with his own farm Quality Assured beef.
“This has ensured we can fully stand over quality and traceability, meaning customers know exactly what and where their food comes from,” explained Emma.
“I worked in the butchery for five years and it was fantastic to work with your own produce and tell customers the story behind it.”
And Springisland has a wonderful story to tell. Ahead of marking its 25th year in business, the store underwent major renovations and an extension, with works completed in mid-2020. The £1.2 million investment saw the store increase from 10,000 sq ft to 15,000 sq ft. It remained open throughout the pandemic, with works even ongoing through the night.
“This was a challenging time, trying to adapt to the covid pandemic alongside site works, but we managed and are absolutely delighted with the outcome – it was worth it all!” said Emma.
She added the success of Springisland wouldn’t be possible without their 130-strong staff.
“We take great pride in our team – we wouldn’t be where we are today without them!”
STORE EXPANSION AND INNOVATIONS
With such an extensive expansion, the store was subsequently able to expand its range of produce, with an increase in fresh, ambient and grocery items providing even more variety for their customers. The extension allowed for the expansion of the fruit and veg section, with a serve-over bakery and ice cream parlour also introduced, thus adding to their key profit centres.
“I suppose I sound slightly biased when I say I believe our meat is up there with some of the best in Ireland but having grown up with that farm to fork idea and then working in the butchery for years, it’s an area I take great pride in,” said Emma.
“I’d say our other main differentiator is our own ice cream brand – Rice’s Ice Cream. This was established in 2020 and I think at that time the pandemic definitely helped because the ice cream provided an outlet for people to still enjoy a treat, despite everything that was going on.
“The ice cream really took off for us and as of 2022, we began making our own ice cream and so now everything is made from scratch onsite. This again feeds into our ethos of doing it ourselves so we can stand over the quality.”
An inevitable outcome of lockdowns was the need for people to shop local, getting their essential items in a store convenient to them. This has been a lasting impact of the pandemic, with shopping local and getting fresh still particularly important for the Coalisland community and customers. The desire for traditional, chilled, home-style meals remains high, with the food-to-go market a key component of nearly all independent retailers.
“The food to go market is huge and I think it’s something that will continue to grow,” said Emma.
“I think people’s attitudes towards cooking have changed and people want a quick and handy dinner option, but they don’t want to compromise on the quality. They want to know they’re eating a fresh homemade dinner but without spending hours making it and that’s where we come in.
“As part of our store extension, we developed a modern open-plan kitchen so customers can see for themselves our products being made.”
Part of the Nisa network, Emma said the partnership works very well for them, describing it as “fantastic”.
“It is great to maintain independence especially in today’s cost-of-living crisis, as it allows us to shop around for the best deals so we can pass this on to our customers and maintain our value for money.
“The Co-op relationship has been fantastic in terms of allowing us to offer a high-quality brand range, but with great value and this shows in their meal deal offerings, which have been a huge success for us.”
Emma and some of the Springisland management team attended this year’s Food Force Ireland trade day, an event she said is a worthwhile and valuable one for FFI members and suppliers.
“It was my first time attending the event and I really enjoyed it. It’s good to get chatting to suppliers face-to-face. The show deals are great and you can tell a lot of effort went into the planning and execution, and those deals can then start the ball rolling to get organised with good promotions in store in the run up to Christmas.”
They have faced the same challenges as their colleagues in the industry across the last few years, with the unpredictable nature of product shortages, across-the-board price rises and trying to maintain that value for money aspect for customers. Emma said it was “stressful trying to juggle it all” but with a “great team they always get something sorted”.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Having invested significantly in the store, Springisland isn’t resting on its laurels and continues to look towards the future, using the latest technological and social advancements, keeping their finger on the pulse.
“Technology plays a huge role in any business and there’s always something new that will help make life that bit easier. We recently invested in new scales for our kitchen, deli and butchery areas and they’re fantastic.
“They operate through the Cloud, so it means we can add products or change ingredients on a label from anywhere. This has been a huge help and allowed the various departments to develop new product lines with ease.
“I think it’s also important to talk about the Too Good To Go app, as this has allowed us to significantly reduce our wastage levels,” added Emma.
“To date, we’ve saved almost 3.5 tonnes of C02 emissions from going to waste. The app allows us to sell ‘magic bags’ containing items that are at their use-by date or best before but are too good to go to waste.
“I am most excited about seeing the business continue to develop and grow. I believe we’re only at the tip of the iceberg with our food-to-go range and I’d love to see that area really expand and bring new ideas to customers’ dinner tables.
“Even in terms of our social media, our Rice’s Ice Cream brand has hit 1.1 million TikTok followers and I can’t wait to see that grow and see where that takes us.”
Emma added that this growth in social media followers is only encouraging her to develop the brand further and keeps the job exciting.
“I love that every day is different and that no day is ever boring. I love the creativity that comes with my job, from experimenting with new ice cream flavours to creating TikTok content to negotiating with suppliers for good deals.
“My favourite part of my job is ultimately giving customers great choice and value for money.”
TO VIEW THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH SPRINGISLAND SUPERMARKET IN THE OCTOBER ISSUE OF NEIGHBOURHOOD RETAILER, CLICK HERE