John McDade, owner of Centra Ballygawley, tells Alyson Magee about the boosted footfall and sales resulting from his recent refurbishment of the store.
An expansion with more shopper-friendly floor space, an extended range of fresh produce, deli and ambient groceries, a new high-quality coffee dock and the addition of a Post Office have collectively revitalised Centra Ballygawley.
John McDade, owner of the recently refurbished store as well as Centra Clogher, has been a retail partner with Musgrave since 2007.
Involved in family business PJ McDaid Fruit & Veg for 15 years, John first stepped into the retail trade in 2000 when the proprietor of an independent store in his home village of Derrylin was retiring and, spotting an opportunity, he and his brother snapped up the business.
John has since passed on ownership of the Derrylin shop but, in 2007, acquired the Ballygawley and Clogher sites and began running the stores under the Centra brand.
He has high praise for Musgrave NI as a retail partner. “Their offering is fresh and current whereas a lot of other symbol groups, in my opinion, lack differentiation of offering,” he says. “It’s important you have a belief in the symbol group, and the relationship between Musgrave and myself is very good. It has always been honest, open and relevant.”
Musgrave assisted John with the planning behind the refurbishment of Centra Ballygawley; in particular Musgrave NI’s Regional Manager Chris O’Reilly and Centra Design Manager Alan Robinson. “Alan was instrumental in figuring out the best design and flow for the shop,” says John. “It was different from other shops in that it has two entrances, which was a particular challenge and the customer flow around the shop never really worked satisfactorily before the refit.”
Around £200,000 was invested in the refurbishment, which was completed in September 2015. In addition to the challenge of two entrances to the shop, “before it was smaller and had a more limited range,” says John. “It had a shape internally that didn’t lend particularly well to trolley shopping.”
Staff and office facilities and an ATM were all located on the ground floor of the shop, reducing the retail space to an L-shape. With the refurb, all the “back of house bits” were relocated to the first floor. Together with a general redesign of the shop floor, 30% more retail floor space was created.
“Now it works much better, and we’ve had a lot of positive comments from customers,” says John. “The aisles are wider and better placed to display goods, allowing our customers to navigate the shop in a more relaxed fashion.”
The redesign has also improved access to the backup storage area, enabling deliveries to be made through the back door. Previously, goods arrived through the front door making deliveries more disruptive to shoppers.
And in a further improvement to customer comfort, car parking facilities at Centra Ballygawley were doubled in size.
Inside the shop, a new Post Office has increased footfall and trade and, in addition to the extended offering, resulted in the employment of four new staff members. A total of 25 full and part-time staff members are now employed at the shop, which operates daily from 7am to 10pm with the exception of Sunday when it opens at 8.30am.
A focus of the refurbishment was to extend the offering of both local produce and particular grocery categories, among them fruit and veg, meat and poultry and ready meals, including the popular SuperValu Signature Tastes range and the Fresh for You chilled foods range launched last year. The latter has been very well received by local customers.
“The bread range was improved and extended, bringing in local bakeries,” says John, with additions including baked goods from Mullaghmore Bakery in Omagh, Graydons Sweet Temptations in Maguiresbridge and Cherry Tree Bakery in Lisnaskea.
“The deli in the old shop was quite small so we refurbished the deli and changed the shape and orientation within the shop to make it more streamlined and more appealing to the customers,” says John.
Further additions to the range include meeting demand for ‘free from’ products, and discretionary ambient lines “which we like to think will give the shop a more artisan feel for our ever more discerning customers,” says John.
Among the most immediately successful additions is a new coffee dock, offering high quality, fair trade coffee alongside a range of complimentary syrups. “It’s now situated adjacent to the deli and sales have doubled through a better focus on the quality of the coffee and the offering,” he says.
John is hopeful an extension of its Mauds ice-cream bar to a new a 12-flavour cabinet will yield similar results once the weather improves, and ice-cream season gets off the ground.
In addition to extensive local marketing of the shop, “Musgrave would say it’s one of the reasons we’re doing as well as we are,” Centra Ballygawley is supportive of the local community in which it operates.
As well as sourcing and funding the football kit for the local primary school, for example the store engages with the school regularly through seasonal events such as an appearance by Santa dispensing gifts at Christmas to educational visits with the kids challenged to find specific products and identify their prices.
Following the success of the Centra Ballygawley refurbishment, John is already planning to do the same with Centra Clogher.