Swift’s Eurospar Lisnaskea
Partnership with the Henderson Group and A £1.7M Investment has resulted in the doubling of turnover, store owner Stephen Swift tells UG
Paddy Doody, sales & marketing director, Henderson Group and Stephen Swift, store owner, Swift’s EUROSPAR Lisnaskea.
Combining the personal touch of a local family business with the expertise of a global retail brand, the Henderson Group has proved an ideal partner for Swift’s EUROSPAR Lisnaskea.
“They’ve given us really good support in terms of our business development on the ground,” says Stephen Swift, who also owns Swift’s SPAR Roslea. “We run a family business with myself and my sister Sandra on the ground on a daily basis and have the added experience of my father Philip in the background if we ever need to tap into his years of retail experience. When we initially got involved with Hendersons, we could see clearly how the Agnew family have a strong input into their business and, combined with Paddy Doody and his team who are very much hands on, we felt it was a winning combination.
“If there is ever a query requiring any support, they’re all on the end of the phone. It is fantastic to be able to approach the owners and directors of a company like that, because sometimes larger companies are more faceless.”
And, at the same time as offering accessibility, the Henderson Group can tap into the SPAR brand’s global assets.
The Swift family has participated in four study tours to the USA, Norway and continental Europe over the last few years, “and what amazed me was the scale of the SPAR brand,” says Stephen. “You feel proud when you realise you’re a member of such a huge global retail franchise. It’s a great brand to be part of, there’s a wealth of information available to us in terms of sharing knowledge, product range and innovation.
“We’ve seen great growth since we moved over to the Henderson Group, with strong like-for-like growth and improved margin. It’s very much been a positive move for us.”
The site of Swift’s EUROSPAR Lisnaskea was originally purchased by the Swift family as a small Shell shop and forecourt operation in 1997.
In 1999, the family expanded the shop to 5,000 square feet and rebranded it as a SuperValu, with the Musgrave partnership continuing until 2015 when the family moved its two stores to Henderson Group brands.
“We could see the continued growth of the EUROSPAR brand locally,” he says. “Strength in numbers really speaks volumes for the offering they had. And we also spoke to a lot of other independent retailers who were under the EUROSPAR and SPAR brands and they were all very positive about the offering Henderson’s were bringing to the table. We just felt it was a good opportunity for us to try something different.”
In tandem with the Lisnaskea store’s conversion to the EUROSPAR brand, the Swifts again expanded the site, more than doubling the retail space to 11,000 square feet. A total of £1.7m was invested in the 2015 expansion, including energy efficiency measures such as LED lighting and a heat recovery system.
The complex now includes a 24-hour Star-branded forecourt supplied by Nicholl Oils, Subway franchise operated by the Swift family and an off licence. The in-store offer includes Family Butchers and Mauds Ice Cream counters and a Café 33 seating area with free WiFi.
FRESH & FOOD-TO-GO FOCUS
Perhaps the most significant benefit of the 2015 investment, however, has been opening up the shop floor to an extensive fresh food and food-to-go offer.
“We’ve seen an opportunity with the larger format store to go after fresh,” says Stephen. “It really is all about fresh in our store, and we’ve seen double-digit growth since we moved to Henderson’s.”
One of the key assets of the partnership has been the delivery schedule. “We can place our chilled orders in the morning and receive the delivery in the evening, and we have that six days a week which is just first class for us in terms of delivering fresh,” he says.
And a flexible approach to sourcing is a further benefit. “We’ve been able to work with a lot of local suppliers,” says Stephen. “EUROSPAR is all about local. We buy vast volumes through the warehouse, but the flexibility of the Henderson’s model means we can also select key local suppliers here, so it works very well for us.”
Among local suppliers are Erne Country Meats, Western Brand Poultry Products, Cavanagh Eggs, and Graydons Sweet Temptations and Melting Moments bakeries.
Swift’s has its own Good Mood Food brand of ready meals produced in-store, including a popular line of Sunday dinners, and plans are afoot to expand and roll it out further in the future.
The shop’s “back wall” of butchery, Subway, deli, fresh food, hot food to go and in-store bakery is “very strong for us,” says Stephen, as is its Barista Bar coffee. “People go out of their way to get that coffee, and it seems to have really struck a chord with people who are out on the roads.”
Average basket spend currently sits at around £13. “We are a supermarket as such, but we still try and mix in the element of convenience and have remodelled the till layout a few times since we opened. I think we’re perfectly formed in that sense; to tick the boxes in terms of convenience and the weekly trolley shop has always been a challenge but we feel our model is as good as it gets.”
Swift’s EUROSPAR Lisnaskea is open seven days a week until 10.30pm, from 7am on Sundays and 6am all other days. Between the two shops, the Swift family employs around 120 full and part-time staff, with Swift’s SPAR Roslea also featuring an in-store Post Office.
MARKETING & IT SUPPORT
Strong marketing support for the EUROSPAR brand has been a further element driving the Swift family’s decision to partner with the Henderson Group.
“It’s based on Your Community Supermarket, and that is what we’re about as a business,” says Stephen. “Initially you would wonder, how do you market a store of our size, but it is very much a hub in the community here. We’re involved in promotional activity for various community events and we sponsor the local GAA and soccer clubs, so the Your Community Supermarket strapline fits the bill perfectly.”
Marketing support is also provided through the retail and wholesale partner in terms of digital assets to aid social media promotions and print marketing such as door-drop leaflets.
Henderson Technology, meanwhile, lends support to its retail partners investing in the latest systems to aid shop efficiency from ordering and analysis of stock to the customer experience.
Swift’s EUROSPAR Lisnaskea is introducing self-scanning checkouts in the New Year. “It seems to be an ever-more popular part of local retail,” says Stephen. “We’re trying to replicate what the multiples do but, at the same time, we still want to maintain a very strong personal input into the business because local people like to see the owners on the shop floor and they like to communicate with our management team and staff who are their friends and neighbours.”
Competition in the area includes a Lidl across the road, “a fairly aggressive retail competitor but I believe Lidl can’t offer what we offer,” says Stephen. “We’re an entirely different model and where we have fantastic customer service, an extensive range, deli and food to go and employ a huge number of local people, Lidl operate an entirely different business model and it’s not one that we’re looking to chase after.
“Having recently been crowned Independent Retailer of the Year in our category at the Retail Industry Awards in London, we really are happy with the progress we made since our redevelopment and this certainly feeds into our hunger for seeking out more opportunities.”
“Further development of the Lisnaskea shop is something we are already looking at. We have a very extensive site here and, in the future, there would be potential opportunities to look into retail units. “We’ve established a very strong business here and there’s a lot of scope for further development.”