My life in the grocery trade

Conor Toland, marketing manager for Henderson Retail

Conor Toland

BRIEFLY OUTLINE YOUR BACKGROUND
After graduating from University of Ulster in 2012, my first full-time job was working as an events assistant for Belfast City Marathon. This was a fantastic first rung on the employment ladder – working for Northern Ireland’s largest participatory sporting event was a great way for me to make a lot of progress in a short space of time. Two years later, I made the move to Henderson Group, taking up the position of marketing assistant then progressing to brand manager and retail marketing manager thereafter.

WHAT DOES YOUR ROLE INVOLVE?
I am responsible for the local marketing needs of all our company-owned SPAR and EUROSPAR stores. Most of my time is dedicated to launch plans of new and refurbished stores. The Henderson Group has a fantastic reputation for investing in their people and places – this has resulted in a rapidly-expanding chain of multi award winning retail stores. My job is to tell people about them.

WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?
I really enjoy seeing our new stores develop quite literally from the ground up. From the initial site meeting when the site is just a hole in the ground, to the buzz of a store’s opening day… it’s an incredibly satisfying journey. The main struggle is sometimes the goalposts can shift quite quickly – an opening date can be delayed or brought forward which can cause a knock-on effect for opening marketing plans. This means I need to be able to adapt quickly in anything I do.

BRIEFLY OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY
A typical day always starts with a Barista Bar cappuccino from our company restaurant, The Hub or in store. If I’m in the office, I will then review my week’s to-do list and create a top three ‘must dos’ list for the day. I will assess my list of stores in development or else those which are underperforming and plan accordingly, but new projects will crop up frequently.
Depending on priority, I will meet with relevant parties, ideally in store, to review local area and options for marketing campaigns such as outdoor media, local radio, digital advertising and direct mail.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE?
My proudest moment so far is winning the Lorraine Hall Award for Young Marketeer of the Year 2018. On a professional level, having your own hard work recognised is a fantastic feeling.
I was also thrilled to see my colleague Joanne Walker, from our EUROSPAR Carrowdore store, win International Store Manager of the Year at the Food Marketing Industry Awards held in Kentucky, USA. In particular, I had a lot of fun filming and editing Jo’s video entry for the competition on location at EUROSPAR Carrowdore.
Obviously helping the company to hit sales and footfall targets is very satisfying, but there’s nothing quite like holding a trophy in your hands.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT THE LOCAL RETAIL INDUSTRY?
As Henderson Retail continues to extend its chain of state-of-the-art stores, this obviously results in a need for more staff. Getting to work with new people all the time is a great way to improve processes and generate new ideas. Also, it’s nice to think that I can walk into stores across Northern Ireland and I will be able to talk to people I know on a personal level.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK?
I am Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fanatic, training out of Straight Blast Gym, a mixed martial arts club based in Belfast City Centre. I was dedicated to playing football from a young age but, in recent years, I’ve decided to pursue a solo hobby which I can immerse myself in at any time that suits me.
Trust me when I say, there’s no better way to relieve stress then choking someone out in a controlled environment!

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF THAT NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY KNOW
I’m the man responsible for bringing the EUROSPAR/Marty Mone Hit the diff collaboration to your TV screen.
♫ Community’s our thing, it’s passion that we bring… ♫

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