Opening two new SPAR stores in the fishing port of Kilkeel two years ago proved to be a wise decision for Henderson Retail. Now, one of those stores is about to open the doors on a state-of-the-art rebuild – but is its neighbour also about to get a revamp? Ulster Grocer spoke to general manager, Gregory Cochrane…
Since arriving in the small port of Kilkeel on the County Down coast two years ago, Henderson Retail has managed to transform the fortunes of the two aging sites, previously operating under another symbol group but acquired and re-branded under SPAR in 2008.
Both businesses – one at Greencastle Street, the other at Newcastle Road – have been so successful for the wholesaler, that the Newcastle Road site has since been completely redeveloped. A new 3,289 sq. ft. state-of-the-art SPAR store is set to re-open there later this month, with the view to revamping the Greencastle Street site in the future.
There was plenty of evidence of the success of the stores at the Henderson Retail Conference in February this year when both sites took honours. Newcastle Road collected Store of the Year and was named Training Store of the Year. Danielle Glenny, the training rep who covers both sites, was ‘highly commended’ by the judges and Newcastle Road also took the Excellence in Management award and was named as the leading store in the group to exceeding its sales plan. In addition, Graham McKee, who works at Greencastle Road, took the Rising Star Award having just returned from the young manager programme in Switzerland. Greencastle Street also took Health & Safety Store of the Year.
For general manager Gregory Cochrane, who has looked after both sites since he arrived in Kilkeel two years ago, it’s all a vindication of a very deliberate attention to detail:
“We have a strong focus here on time management, on teamwork, on sharing best practice and delivering through our people,” he told Ulster Grocer. “When we arrived here at the start, I think the job was just to get the Henderson Retail systems and policies into place, make sure we had the right people at the right time with the right training in place. And through this focus on training, we promoted ownership and accountability that has allowed us to really start delivering.”
Gregory says that he’s very happy with the performance to date of both stores. He’s looking forward to the opening of the new outlet at Newcastle Road on June 23 which, he says, is evidence that the people of Kilkeel have really embraced the SPAR offering.
At 3,289 sq. ft., the new store at Newcastle Road will represent a considerable increase on the space available in the former outlet. And it will be reflective of all the latest retail trends. It will have a Cunningham’s in-store butchery, Brennan’s home-made ice-cream, a full Streat coffee shop offering and a strong emphasis on locally-supplied produce:
“We will also have a counter that sells fresh fish and we have everything from ‘build your own birthday cake’ to a range of ready meals which are manufactured locally. These are all things that we intend to build on going forward at both stores because our customers tell us that this is what they want and they have worked well for us so far.”
“Over the couple of years that we’ve been trading here, we’ve built up excellent relationships with a great many locally-based suppliers and we’ll really be majoring on those in the new store,” confirms Gregory.
Gregory came to Kilkeel from Bangor, where he had set up the first EUROSPAR outlet on the Rathgael Road for Henderson Retail. Prior to that, he worked with the Barbican group of stores.
“I think that the priority going forward is going to be to build on the sales growth of 25 per cent, to continue to develop our people and our partnerships with local suppliers plus deliver the best possible standards and exceed customer expectations. We recently appointed a community rep which is proving invaluable in building relations with in our local community. We want to make sure that we can get as much of this right as possible.
“It may well be that the Greencastle Road site will also be re-developed in time, but we will make this decision based on our evaluation of the new Newcastle Road outlet once it’s up and running. So it’s going to be our customers in Kilkeel who very much decide the future of both stores,” adds Gregory.