Success Story: for Lynch’s Foodstores success is a real team effort
With 400 staff across their nine stores, Conor Lynch says their colleagues are the real stars.
“We really believe that our staff are the stars of the store and are central to creating that sense of community with customers, making the store an enjoyable place to shop.”
Conor Lynch proudly heaps praise on his staff, citing their hard work and dedication as the key factor in their Skeoge store winning the Community Store of the Year title at last year’s Neighbourhood Retailer Awards.
“We were delighted to win Community Store of the Year. It was great for the team to get the recognition they deserve, and they got lots of praise on social media from our customers for winning such a high-profile award,” said Conor.
Lynch’s Foodstores was established by Conor’s father, Denis in 1980, starting out with a 700 sq ft shop in Feeny. A few years later, the business moved into larger premises in the neighbouring village of Claudy and as Conor explained, it has always been a family-run business, as he and his two brothers are now involved.
“From a young age we were helping out in the storeroom and helping out on order day; all three of us started working in the shop full-time when we left education,” he said.
Lynch’s Foodstores now consists of nine stores, employing 427 staff, with their award-winning Skeoge store their fifth franchise, opening in November 2018.
“Since the beginning we have partnered with our wholesale partner, the Henderson Group, proving to have been the right choice all those years ago, with Henderson’s now being the number one wholesale partner in Northern Ireland,” said Conor.
‘We have improved efficiency by doing sales-based ordering for grocery on the Henderson’s Technology system. Changing to a sales-based ordering system’
Their Skeoge store opened with 45 employees in 2018 and they now have almost 100 staff members at the store. Since opening the doors, the family and staff have worked hard to grow and progress the services and offerings available.
“Within the first year, the store opened a Post Office counter,” said Conor.
“We then increased the square footage of the shop to include an off sales in March 2020 and we have also expanded our butchery team in Skeoge so that we could supply our other stores with pre-packed meat from there.
“We have a team of butchers, a delicatessen serving from a hot food counter and salad bar and a Barista coffee counter. We stock our own range of ready meals and we have a full range of freshly baked goods in store.
“The Skeoge store also has a busy off sales with a wide selection of wines, beers and spirits, fuel pumps, Post Office and on-site ATMs.”
Naturally over the last 40 years, there have been huge advancements made in technology, nonemoreso than in the retail sector, and like so many others, Lynch’s embraced these changes.
“We have improved efficiency by doing sales-based ordering for grocery on the Henderson’s Technology system. Changing to a sales-based ordering system means we no longer have a staff member manually inputting the order,” said Conor.
“By implementing this we saved nine hours a week and have reduced stock holding in the storeroom. We are now moving onto the next stage by using Henderson’s Relex system to do all orders for the store.
“We worked with Bluedot technology to implement an allergens intelligence system. This system generates labels for our products with all the allergen information required to meet the standards for Natasha’s Law.
“We are also speaking to Henderson’s Technology about rolling out electronic SELs across the stores. This will reduce the time spent by staff manually changing prices for promotions and price increases and will also build the confidence of customers knowing that the price they see on the shelf is what they will pay at the till.
“We are also installing our first self-service tills into our Trench Road store which will be renovated and expanded later this year.”
‘Social media has played a big role in how we communicate with our customers. Obviously, it’s great to be able to promote new products and promotions, but we find it a great way to build a sense of community with our customers’
Today, technology and social media go hand-in-hand and increasingly retailers are using their own social media channels to communicate directly with the consumer.
“Social media has played a big role in how we communicate with our customers. Obviously, it’s great to be able to promote new products and promotions directly to our customers, but we find it a great way to build a sense of community with our customers.
“A great example of using social media to communicate with our customers was in the promotion of our community coffee morning which was raising funds for NI Cancer Fund for Children.
“Our staff really got behind the event by engaging with customers and creating a buzz in the store that helped with the fundraising. Posting updates and encouraging customers to come down to the store throughout the day really increased the footfall of customers in store that day. Thanks to our staff and our
customers, we raised over £10,000 for NI Cancer Fund for Children.
“We also support a range of sports teams, community groups and schools and post pictures on social media when they are in store. The Skeoge favourites are the Oxford Bulls. We support the Oxford Bulls throughout the year and our staff really get involved too.
“Last year the staff themselves organised a big football match against the team with awards for all of the Bulls and refreshments. The buzz from the match was great. The Oxford Bulls are really active on social media so as well as being the most fulfilling team for us to support, we benefit from their social media activities also.”
The last number of years have not been without their challenges, with Conor stating that covid was the “biggest challenge of them all”.
“Obviously covid was challenging for all of us. As we were on the frontline as it were, our priority was to protect our staff. To do this we implemented social distancing and put markings on the floor to help customers adhere to it.
“We limited the amount of customers allowed into the store which resulted in long queues outside the shop. Never did we think we would see the day when we would be stopping customers from coming in.
“We also put up protective screens at the tills for staff. To reduce the number of staff members working on the floor while customers were in, we created a new shift from 4am when the staff would stock out the store before opening at 6am. We also had a staff member dedicated to cleaning touch points throughout the day.
“In the early days, getting our hands on hand sanitiser and masks proved difficult, as well as keeping stock of popular items such as pasta and toilet roll. Managing staff absences and isolating periods was challenging at times too.
“Thankfully we have returned to normal now.”
However, challenges aside, the future is looking extremely bright for Lynch’s with a number of exciting developments in the pipeline.
“We have a lot of projects this year including the £1.5 million Trench Road revamp and the continued development of our newest store in Coalisland.
“We are in the early stages of planning for the store where our story began in Claudy. This £3.2 million project will hopefully see us build a brand new store with improved car parking and petrol pumps and it will more than double the size of the shop floor. Our head office will also be above the shop.”
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