Horgan’s Centra Ardfert reinvents rural convenience in Co Kerry

Centra Ardfert in Co Kerry, Ireland, has harnessed the transformation of the Centra brand to create a destination store for food, coffee, ice cream and off licence.

The 1,808sq ft store, owned by Brendan and Norrie Horgan, was opened in October 1999. A Centra convenience format, it serves 7,000 customers per week, competing with the likes of Aldi, Lidl, SuperValu and Spar.

Horgan’s Centra has been a key part of the Ardfert community for two generations. However, with increased competition from the nearby town of Tralee, it noticed that locals and customers were passing its door to seek new and better food offerings.

In 2016, the Horgans visited the Centra brand showcase for the convenience format and came away convinced it could transform from a forecourt to a food emporium so that customers wouldn’t have to travel beyond its doors to get what they desired.

“We wanted to become market leaders in convenience and set the bar for others to follow in our footsteps,” Brendan and Norrie recall.

The duo are also passionate about supporting the local community through suppliers, local jobs and sponsorships and wanted this to be a key feature in the new store.

The revamp of Centra Ardfert began in August 2016 and was completed by April 2017, more than doubling the store to 4,500sq ft. According to the retailer, the step change has been immense and the revamp has breathed new life into the store, staff, community and customers. Without doubt it has future proofed the business, it says.

Centra Ardfert’s action plan for the revamp spanned four key areas: products & services, people & behaviours, environment and communications.

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In terms of products and services, the store’s vision was to become a world class destination for food, coffee and convenience retailing. It wanted to meet all the day parts and support local suppliers by showcasing their goods. It has a best in class convenience offering ensuring customers can shop locally without compromising on quality or range. The off licence offers a vast range of spirits, wines, traditional and craft beers to cater for the most discerning tastes. New concepts, including Moo’s Ice Cream and Frank & Honest coffee, have also been introduced and local farmers have been given the opportunity to sell their goods in their own community.

The store environment is focused on being open and inviting as well as complementing the beautiful surroundings of the Ardfert countryside. The external facade of the store links to the local landscape and the large windows are inviting and fill the store with natural light. The layout is focused on delivering an exceptional convenience shopping experience with wide aisles for a comfortable basket or trolley shop. A new seating area allows shoppers to watch the world go by or sample the delicious food, coffee and ice cream. The deli counters celebrate food with improved displays, abundant healthy choices an digital menu boards. The decor is contemporary, fresh and urban and the provision of free Wi-Fi encourages customers to linger.

Staff are viewed as one of the most valuable assets at Centra Ardfert and are passionate about delivering the best possible service. They have embraced the new offerings, gaining knowledge of new ranges which, in turn, allows them to recommend products to their customers.

Employees were engaged via ‘store safaris’, co-creation of the store vision and in-store workshops. Training needs were assessed and a comprehensive food and service training programme was introduced. Performance was measured and recognised by mystery shopper reports with rewards for service excellence.

The store has embraced the Centra Live Every Day mantra and says it’s passionate about delivering a fresh food emporium. It has cut back on POS and focused on showcasing the new ranges and letting the offer speak for itself - food is the hero in this store.

Emotive and energetic signage supports local suppliers and producers, who have been given a platform in the store. That ethos is underpinned by support for local clubs and associations and the store has turned to Facebook to promote itself in the community too.

Customers are lapping up the new look and offer, rating Centra Ardfert 4.8 out of 5 and remark on the friendly and helpful service and brilliant staff. Mystery shopper reports concur the store is providing exceptional service with a 100% score. The reports credit the store lay out, modern look and feel and engaging and friendly staff.

That’s filtering through into the figures. The customer count has increased by 2,000 per week to 9,000 and the average spend is up by 25% with a 1.5% growth in margins.

Horgan’s Centra Ardfert is now a destination for locals to get the best of what’s on offer for miles around. Following the revamp, the store is leading the way in convenience retail and showing how a rural store can compete with market leaders and win.

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