Store focus

Swift’s family-owned Eurospar proves a staple ‘bread and butter’ offering

Swift’s family-owned Eurospar proves a staple ‘bread and butter’ offering

Philip Swift’s first ever role in the retail food sector was as a door-to-door bread man around picturesque South Fermanagh. Today, not far off 50 years later, the family’s next generation, son Stephen and daughter Sandra are still serving bread to the people Fermanagh – except they have long since expanded their range to many hundreds – if not thousands of other products and services in their family-owned Swifts Eurospar, Lisnaskea and Spar Roslea. Stephen explained how the transformation first began: “My dad was running a van-based bread service when he saw an opportunity to diversify. “Away back in the worst of The Troubles – in 1972 – he saw his chance and bought a petrol filling station in our home town of Newtownbutler.”

Retailing back then was a simpler business but nevertheless Philip and his wife Mary-Agnes started to invest time and money into a business that became a real passion and indeed a family affair. In 1996 the family purchased their second store close by, in Lisnaskea. Stephen explained: “Formally known as Gannon’s Garage we operated it as an independent initially, it was only a little convenience shop around 1,000 sq. ft., but we knew it was a great site so after two years trade we jumped in the deep end and built a brand new 6,000 sq. ft. supermarket which traded very successfully as SuperValu for almost 20 years.” Having sold on the Newtownbutler store in 2000 the Swifts purchased their Roslea site in 2007 and have since installed both an off sales and Post Office into this busy border village store. “In the summer of 2015 we changed wholesale partners and joined Hendersons. We’ve been busy ever since!” he said. After undergoing a second massive redevelopment in 2016 the store now trades under the Eurospar umbrella and Spar in Roslea.

“The supermarket in Lisnaskea -‘Skea’ as it is known locally – has since moved on to develop what has become a state of the art community supermarket on a huge site of well over two acres,” he added. FORECOURT Swifts Lisnaskea has now grown into a 12,000 sq. ft. supermarket with eight lanes for petrol and diesel pumps and a generous, adjacent car parking facility for almost 100 cars on site and fantastic scope for further retail units in the future. Between the two locations the family employs an impressive total of 130 full time and part time staff – making them a considerable local positive influence in what has often been difficult times in terms of both job creation and job retention across the rural county. “Becoming a Eurospar in 2015 was a huge transformation,” Stephen said. “An investment of £1.7million – just completed late last year – meant 40 temporary construction jobs and saw the previous numbers on the two shops’ payroll rising too – and there’s much more to come,” he promised. “The recent work – five years in the planning – was only completed last November so with the significant improvements offered for both shoppers and staff we are now pleased to be providing what amounts to a community hub.” Most recently, at the end of February, a Customer Appreciation Day took place with no less than 54 small firms that supply the store locally providing free samples of their products.

“It was our way of saying thanks to the local community for sticking with us during the development which was a massive undertaking especially on a live retail site , builders & customers just don’t mix the easily!” Stephen said. DEDICATED STAFF Manager Ian Elliot and the Deputy Manager, Lucas Zajac explained how the staff all came on board for the event, by dressing up in costume. Resplendent in a tradesman’s outfit, complete with check shirt, reflective safety vest and a hard hat and even a ‘loaded’ tool belt, Ian said: “We have everything from Disney characters to staff in lederhosen pants so it was obvious everyone in the team took the special day seriously as we thanked our loyal staff for their support – and our suppliers too.

“All the participating suppliers are already winners individually of Great Taste Awards so it was fitting for them to be given an opportunity to further enhance their presence and their sales – and for us all to have a bit of fun too,” Lucas added. But the proprietor Stephen Swift believes this is what makes the offering different. There is relatively new Lidl just up the road and while it is obviously opposition Stephen knows his customers personally – as was obvious from the level of two-way greetings by Stephen with customers (on a first-name basis) – and Swifts are constantly innovating. INVESTMENT “The recent investment means we now have a really extensive Deli, hot food to go, fresh meat counter from Irvine’s family butchers and we have also incorporated Quinn’s Gelato alongside a extended off sales – were value and a huge range are major selling points,” he said. “We have expanded our offering with lots of craft beers, premium spirits and quality wines with the introduction of a wine club in the coming months.

“In March, we are adding another offering, our new coffee shop, Café 33 so we will be well prepared for the coming tourist season when the county opens up for the summer holidays. “Like every new store, ours is no different in the sense that every week you see something different or an opportunity to try a new product or range in store so in lots of respects the real work starts now and over the next few months there will be lots of little tweaks here and there until we are happy with every little detail but the store certainly has the space to evolve. “Both myself and my sister Sandra put in long hours each week. We like being on hand to see to the smooth running of the operation but don’t mind that, as we clearly have the same ‘retailing bug’ that our parents displayed back in the day. “We put a lot back in too. We raise funds for regularly for local charities sponsor events for the local GAA and soccer clubs and of course provide business for our numerous local suppliers. “Food to go is very popular already, so the addition of the coffee shop and a ‘sit-in’ option will be a further service for the people of ‘Skea and district. “We are also in discussion with an international fast food franchise which if all goes to plan would really finish off the onsite offering so watch this space.

“We open from 6am everyday (Sunday 7am) and have a great trade in the mornings for hot food and the twin Barista Coffee machines are never idle. “By putting on our Customer Appreciation Day – complete with costumed staff, face-painters for the kids and even whisky tasting for mums and dads – we not only gave something back, but also showed our acute awareness that for the customer – a value-for-money, quality offering remains vital. “We couldn’t do it without that loyal customer base, who we hope will continue to enjoy the service our stores provide for many years to come,” Stephen concluded.  

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