We have now been operating our second site, in Markethill, County Armagh, for about six months. It’s taking up most of our time and there’s been a lot to get used to now that we have two stores.

Delegating to our staff has been one of the hardest aspects of taking on a second store. We have supervisors in both stores, who we talk to on a daily basis. We all get together to come up with ideas to improve things, we communicate all the time and things run smoothly, but we’re so used to being in one store and knowing what’s going on all the time. And it’s hard to let go of your first store; it’s where your heart is. In some ways it would be easier to have three or four stores, as you wouldn’t feel so attached to one in particular.

It really highlights how important it is to work with staff you trust. Most of our supervisors have been promoted by us, so they know the business. We identify staff members who are eager, and try to push them on and send them on training courses – the Spar Academy does a catalogue of courses.
It gives the employees more certificates and it’s better for us. The staff see that we’re investing in them, so they’ll work harder.

The new store is starting to make money, but it can be frustrating. It was in such poor condition when we bought it – it was dirty and there was no range, fresh products or services. One customer told me recently she was so happy that there was actually fuel now!

At least now we’ve got all the services – we’ve got a Barista coffee unit and a small hot food-to-go area – all the things people take for granted and what a convenience store is supposed to have. It’s also busy as we’re the only fuel site on the main road between Armagh and Newry, so there’s huge potential.

We’re working with building control at the moment to do a complete refit, which will hopefully happen in a year’s time. We plan to utilise all of the 2,800sq ft space – the retail area only covers 1,900sq ft at the moment – and introduce a small deli counter. But we know that the only way to expand and be successful is to crawl before you can run.