Donna & Stephen Mullan
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS
Mullan’s SPAR is an independent convenience store situated on the Monaghan Road in Armagh. We provide fresh, every day essentials, as well as our own brand of soups, stews, pizzas, salad goods and ready meals which are made fresh each day on site in our extensive Hot food and Deli operation.
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A RETAIL PARTNER OF THE HENDERSON GROUP?
We began our partnership with Henderson Group in 2005, 12 years ago.
WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE THE HENDERSON GROUP?
Hendersons has over 100 years of retail experience and the many different facets of the business allows us to grow in ways to meet the demand of our shoppers. Their fresh offering is second to none, which means that we can be the best option for those in our community who need to pick something fresh and healthy up last minute for tonight’s tea. We know that the team there dedicate their sourcing to the island of Ireland, meaning 75% of our produce will come from just down the road.
WHAT ADVANTAGES HAS THE PARTNERSHIP BROUGHT?
There are many advantages to our partnership with the Henderson Group, but the top would be having the support from a well-established business that is able to offer retail services support ensuring we have the most shopper friendly layout of our store, plus our business development manager is our one-toone adviser in driving sales and margins. We also benefit from extended support in the form of I.T and marketing, and the wholesale and foodservice choice we have means we can expand our goods and service offering to our shoppers.
HAS YOUR SHOP EXPANDED, BEEN REFURBISHED OR HAVE YOU INTRODUCED ANY NEW LINES IN RECENT YEARS?
Thanks to the fact that we can order from Henderson’s Foodservice business means we can offer a range of food-to-go in the store, which we have implemented in the store in recent years. We have also complemented our fresh range with our own range of meal options, from soups and stews to ready meals. We have made coffee an important part of our business by introducing Barista Bar brand coffee to the store, this has seen sales more than double in twelve months and still growing. We also allocated space to a dedicated ice cream area within the store, and it has been designed to feel like an ice cream parlour and sells whipped ice cream as well as locally hand made Gelato ice cream.
HOW HAS TRADE BEEN THIS YEAR?
We have worked very hard to continue to meet the shoppers’ demand this year. It is an increasingly competitive sector, and convenience has become a reliable alternative to supermarkets for smaller communities. We need to ensure value, provenance and freshness are at the top of our food priority list, and as we expand, we continue to focus on customer service and interaction, and our exceptional standards and points of difference from the other stores in the area. This has ensured continued double digit growth. We were recently rewarded for this at the Convenience Retail Awards where we took the top accolade, Convenience Retailer of the Year 2017, as well as Best Independent Convenience Store.
ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR ISSUES CURRENTLY FACING THE RETAIL SECTOR?
Obviously the biggest unknown at the moment is how the UK leaving the European Union is going to affect trade in Northern Ireland. We’re lucky that, thanks to our and Henderson Group’s focus on provenance, the rising cost of imports may not affect us greatly. However, Brexit is still a huge question mark, nobody really knows how it is going to play out or what is going to happen in Northern Ireland in particular. We just have to be as prepared as possible, and thankfully we have our business development and retail partners at Henderson Group who will advise us on going forward. We will as always adapt swiftly to our customers constantly developing demands.
HAVE YOU ANY FUTURE PLANS FOR THE SHOP?
We are of course delighted with the performance of the business this year, however our commitment to continue to re-invest in our business will see the opening of larger production kitchens on site. This will allow us to expand our range of own-brand meal solutions and the larger kitchens will also have the capacity to service our second store in Markethill, which will open in April, as well as future stores. Our commitment to staff training is a neverending process, and with the help of Henderson Group’s Academy we constantly offer training to our team which in turn enables us to offer the best in customer service.