It might be surrounded by multiples, but McBride’s Scaffog is more than holding its own. Convenience Store travelled to Enniskillen in Northern Ireland to see how the Spar store is beating the competition
Situated just north of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is the small town of Enniskillen. Well-known among those on both sides of the border, the town is a popular shopping spot with lots of big name retailers settling in the area. This means that a convenience store needs to be doing something special if it wants to thrive. And what does that entail? Well, ask the team at McBride’s Scaffog
One of 11 sites owned by Peter McBride, the store is supplied by Henderson Wholesale and has a turnover of between £38,000 and £40,000 per week (not including services).
A former car showroom, the 2,995sq ft store opened in October 2010 with a focus on fresh to take on the multiples in the area.
Although some store managers may flinch when they hear that a multiple is coming to town, Damien Boardman took a more upbeat attitude. “It’s actually helped us in some ways; more people will come to the town to visit the likes of Asda and Tesco, but still stop here for something, so it’s actually boosted business,” he explains.
McBride’s Scaffog, Enniskillen
Size: 2.995sq ft
Extras: Ice cream kiosk, food to go, locally-sourced vegetable range
Community engagement: The store gives sports day kits to the local school and the McBride’s group has just raised £10,000 for the NSPCC by carrying out a 140 mile two-day cycle
His positivity is backed up by the figures - both average weekly footfall and sales are up 3% and 4% year on year respectively at the store, showing that competition can be good for business.
The store also benefits from shoppers wanting to avoid the multiples altogether. “Shoppers will often come to us because they don’t want the hassle of going to one of the supermarkets and they know they can get what they need here,” says Damien. “It means we have a good reputation in the area, but then the customers will also fill a basket with products they hadn’t planned to buy so we see a dual benefit.”
This impulsive behaviour of customers is being driven by promotions that stretch across all categories. Area manager Sandra Martin says it’s all about offering the shoppers value. “Customers are on the lookout for bargains and they will shop wherever they’re offered value,” she says. “We want to be able to offer as much good value as possible to keep them coming back.”
It’s not just a value proposition that attracts customers, either. As soon as you walk in the door, it’s obvious that the store aims to tempt the fresh and chilled produce shopper. This starts with the specially-made fruit and vegetable display that gives it a greengrocer feel and shows off local produce to good effect, moving along to the chillers with a mix of Henderson- and locally-supplied produce.
Damien explains why both complement each other. “You need that core range to satisfy customers who want to come in and get everything they need for dinner that evening, but having some locally-supplied vegetables gives you a point of difference,” he says. “The carrots and parsnips we get from a local supplier a couple of miles down the road look great; they still have some soil on them and customers love that.”
Local suppliers also make up a huge part of its chilled offering, giving the store the opportunity to set itself apart from the competition. “It means there’s always something a little bit different for our customers that they can’t get at the supermarket,” says Damien. “Having a point of difference is essential for success.”
Stretching along the length of the store and then some, a lot of effort goes into the chilled section and requires a person to oversee it at all times. “Our fresh supervisor Kelly spends the day making sure it’s merchandised properly, ordering stock and looking at ways to improve it,” says Damien. “It’s such a vital category and you need to have someone on it to make sure it’s looking its best.”
With such a big section, it’s vital that everything is laid out in the best possible way to make the most from it.
“Our fresh and chilled section has a logic to it,” explains area manager Sandra. “We want customers to shop the entire section, filling their basket as they move along.”
To achieve this, Damien says they looked at how the customer actually shops to improve it. “We broke it up into smaller sections so that customers move quickly from product to product,” he says. “Previously, we had all of one type of product running in a line along one shelf so if customers were looking along that they would miss lots of other products underneath. Now we can put all the linked products together logically and customers are less likely to miss them.”
The group’s independence means it can offer items to set it apart from other stores. The ice cream kiosk beside the till which offers locally-supplied tubs and impulse lines is busy all year round, and a local baker stocks an artisan range which has pride of place at the front of the store. “It all contributes towards creating a different store where customers can still get their day-to-day shopping,” says Damien.
As well as offering something different through local suppliers, the team is focused on providing top-quality customer service. Damien leads by example and prefers to be on the front line rather than stuck in the office doing paperwork. “I like to spend 80% of my time on the shop floor as that’s where the action is,” he says. “It’s important for a manager to know what’s going on in the shop and the best way to do that is to be out meeting customers and merchandising shelves.”
Attention to customer service is something that owner Peter is particular about. “I need to have the best team of staff in stores that provide the best customer service,” he says. “Nothing frustrates me more than a customer having a bad experience at one of my stores, because that’s a lost customer and damages the reputation of all the stores.”
To ensure this doesn’t happen, all staff members have gone through the Henderson Group Training Academy and have implemented a ‘two is a queue’ policy to call for assistance at the till to avoid leaving anyone waiting for too long.
The store scores highly in mystery shop visits, racking up an impressive 91% in its last test. Peter says mystery shoppers are a good way to motivate the team. “It’s a good way of getting fresh eyes on the store and feedback which can be used to improve customer service.