Shelflife Magazine Costcutter Q&A with Edwina Lucey – Sales Director

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Edwina Lucey, sales director for the Cork retail group, outlines the company's "proud to be local" ethos and plans to further develop its advancing fresh offering

What are the main values that your symbol group channels through its retailers and their stores?

True to the nature of Barry Group our values penetrate through all of our symbol brands. For Costcutter, local and community involvement are at the core of what we do. As a brand, we truly are ‘proud to be local’. We partner with local business people to offer a competitive and immersive shopping environment within their communities. However, local doesn’t stop at having the brand present for us. We strive for our retailers to be active members in their community and for them to make a true impact.

Another key value that we abide by is inclusivity. While local is an important value and pillar of the brand, we want Costcutter to stand for something. We must think beyond the transactional nature of the convenience sector and give our customers an opportunity to understand and connect with the brand. By applying the principle of inclusivity as an additional key value, it makes Costcutter accessible to all. We champion for inclusivity and for everyone to feel welcome in our Costcutter stores nationwide. No matter who you are, where you are from, your beliefs, Costcutter is at the centre of your community and is there to service your needs. We have some fantastic initiatives and marketing campaigns coming in the near future to celebrate this message.

Lastly, an additional value that deserves a mention is ‘less promise, more purpose’. We believe that every move that we and our retailers make must be grounded in truth and honesty. What really matters isn’t what or how brands do, but why. We strive to always have a strong ‘why’ and to make sure that any decision we make is customer centric and we can standby the outcome proudly. This is what makes us unique and ensures that we have strong positive relationships with both our retailers and their customers. 

 

 

Wholesaling is a key part of the relationship between retailer and symbol group. How does your group maintain and promote this area of the business?

Although wholesaling is a key part of our offering, we don’t classify it in that way. We offer so much more than wholesaling, in fact, we would categorise it as an embedded relationship. We provide a retail system to assist our retailers in providing high quality retail solutions for customers. We believe that our approach to wholesaling is a strength to our brand and one that acts as an incentive for retailers to join the brand.

Our 150,000sq ft central warehouse services all of our customers ambient, alcohol and chill needs. We own and manage our own fleet of trucks which ensure that we have full control of our service level. This is accompanied by an incredibly high standard of customer service. To maintain this, communication is key. Our retailers have constant access to our dedicated team across all elements of our business including sales, inside sales, marketing, and logistics just to name a few. We are aware that this is not standard industry practice, but it is something that we pride ourselves on. Our relationship with our retailers is our key priority and we strive to always deliver.  

The promotion of this service really does come down to our exemplary levels of accuracy. They are the best endorsement for our business. As part of our service offering, we measure accuracy and set the business key targets to meet. Due to the centralisation of our warehouse and distribution we have complete control here and this is a key asset to the business.

 

 

More and more, symbol groups are pivoting towards a broader and more comprehensive fresh offering than ever before. From a symbol group’s perspective, what is the catalyst for this change?

I believe that this development has been predominately driven by the ever evolving needs and wants of consumers. We live in an era where information is instantly retrievable, and consumers want an answer now. We don’t attribute this to a specific generational cohort or believe it has been influenced by one in particular. Consumers in general have become more health conscious and have taken the time to self-educate on the best and most beneficial choice and are now making informed nutritional decisions for themselves. Gone are the days of brands hiding behind an exhaustive list of ingredients, consumers now challenge these norms and want to be heard. We truly welcome this change and see a clear benefit for us and our retailers to this change in society.

We always aim to satisfy the consumers expectations and requirements. With this mantra in mind, consumers are heading towards a healthy fresh offering, so it is incumbent on us to support our retailers with a retail infrastructure that offers this to the modern consumer. Over the past two years we have dedicated time and investment into establishing a new instore fresh offering. From the deli perspective alone, we have two fresh food offerings that go beyond the standard deli. We have Market St Deli which is our premium deli that offers fresh food comprised of high-quality deli options. This has been well received by both retailers and consumers alike. We also have The Salad Patch which is another fresh component to our store offering. This concept is an innovative salad offering which is prepared in front of the consumer according their own bespoke needs. We also ensure that pre-packed meals for lunch and dinner are freshly prepared in our deli. At the end of the day, people appreciate good food and that is a key reason why these offerings have been so profitable for retailers.

 

One of the main concerns among retailers in 2019 is soaring insurance premiums. Where does your symbol group stand on this issue and the burgeoning campaign to reduce these costs?

We are united with our retailers on this front and are aware of their concerns. Unfortunately, the current business environment does bring its own challenges, and this just happens to be one. We acknowledge that this is a reality for retailers nationwide and see that they are incurring more costs making it that bit more difficult to succeed. However, this should not deter people from working in this sector.

Our dedicated national Account Management team are working with our retailers and focusing on methods of reducing risk instore and streamlining business processes. This has been a fantastic support for our retailers, and they have reaped the benefits. On a national scale, we feel obliged to highlight the topic in the political sphere and offer a platform for not only our Costcutter retailers, but for retailers nationwide offering them a voice. With such fundamental issues we are stronger united, and we will keep working to optimise business practice in the convenience sector.

 

 

Apart from the insurance question, what are the challenges facing the business as you see it, on a nationwide as well as a local level?

At a national level, we are working in a competitive landscape and successfully holding our ground. This comes down to our approach to business, the relationships we build with retailers and consumers and our fantastic team. We will never become complacent here and will always stay focused.

At a local level, there are challenges which are very real and affecting the success of local businesses. Staff retention, the cost of doing business, extra legislation burdens are key issues facing businesses in general. I do think that these challenges will continue to grow, but the best way of counteracting them is to be proactive and operate to the highest of standards. Our aim is to concentrate on building relationships with our customers and securing a future for them while ensuring that they are profitable in the long run.

Another considerable challenge is the growing uncertainty around Brexit. We are fully engaged with all of our supply chain partners to ensure as seamless an outcome as possible for all of our customers.

We will continue to take key challenges head on, grow our business, build our brand and remain an outstanding player in the sector.

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Barry Group, Upper Quartertown, Mallow,
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