In June 2016 we purchased a second site, a fuel site with 1,850sq ft retail space, in Markethill, County Armagh. Although this was a new venture and we were entering into unfamiliar territory, we didn’t allow it to deter us. The site was a bank repossession and had a sitting tenant with 18 months left on their lease. We were happy to allow the tenant to run their lease out to give us time to plan how we would put our stamp on the property. But, as we all know, some things never go to plan and in March 2017 the tenant contacted us with his surrender of lease and three weeks’ notice. It was unexpected and our plans that we had been working on for re-fitting were not completed, so we were left with no alternative but to open it as it was and try to trade.

The day we got the keys we had a store that had virtually no services – so the stress began! There had been no fuel on site for 10 weeks; we had to re-apply for lapsed services from PayPoint, lotto, petroleum licence, etc, etc. There were other issues, too, as the site had been running with no compliance regulations for fire, environmental health, pest control and so on, and even phone lines and broadband lines had to be installed.

So after 10 days spent cleaning, recruiting, rebranding, remerchandising over Easter, filling six builders’ skips and with no rest, we opened on 24 April as Spar.

We have always been advised by multi-site retailers that the transition from one site to two is the toughest… and they were right! It’s hard work and as a couple we are like ships in the night. Finding a work/life balance is difficult. The second site needs a lot of our attention and physical presence of one of us, but our first site is thriving and we need to be there to keep it evolving and improving. Some days it can be a juggling act, but you must remain focused on improving growth in both stores and very often a bit more delegating.

Our main focus in our new site is to try to build a relationship with our customers in a new town, continue to research their needs and provide them. Nobody said it would be easy - hard work never killed anyone - but if the second is the hardest we’ll be first in the queue for the third, fourth and fifth if the opportunity arises!