Liddy’s Costcutter in Roslevan, on the outskirts of Ennis, is one of the gems of the Costcutter franchise, having won its Store of the Year award on several occasions. Not that store owner Tom Liddy is resting on his laurels, however. Checkout reports. This article first appeared in the July 2013 edition of Checkout.
A lot can change in retail in five years, and with half a decade’s worth of trading under the Costcutter fascia behind him, Tom Liddy of Costcutter Roslevan, Co. Clare, felt that the time was right to tailor his store to the needs of today’s consumer. “It’s become a lot more competitive out there over the past five years,” Liddy explains. “There’s a lot more emphasis on fresh, on home baking, on local produce and supporting your locality. We felt it was about time to have another look at what we were doing, and how to modernise it.”
With a new chilled distribution model by franchise operators Barry Group set to come on stream in the autumn, and a reputation for fresh produce already established, the refurbishment, which was completed last month, is set to bring the store’s “fresh focus to a whole new level,” Liddy explains. “We’ve invested in refrigeration, in the food-to-go offer – we even spent quite a bit of time finding the right coffee machine to ensure that we can offer the best-possible-quality coffee.”
Along with a refurbishment of Liddy’s second store - a forecourt convenience outlet on Mill Road in Ennis - the total value of the refurbishment came to €150,000. “It’s quite a bit of money, so we needed to make sure we were ticking all the boxes,” he adds.
A Fresher Focus
One of the most notable elements of the new-look store is the fresh bakery and food-to-go area, which takes up a space formerly reserved for the checkout. “We have always had six tills, but we used to have two on the ‘convenience’ side of the store and four on the ‘supermarket’ side,” says Liddy. “Now, because the ‘large trolley’ shopper once a week has turned into the ‘basket shopper’ two or three times a week, we have three tills to service the convenience end. We’ve modernised the checkout area as well, to give us more space, bringing in high-spec till counters that the Barry Group have designed for the Costcutter brand.”
The resulting space further emphasises the fresh credentials of the store, with a wide-ranging bakery option – “the local Cuisine de France rep, Donna Broderick, has worked closely with the team here to ensure the product offering is 100% right” – and a food-to-go offer that features more than chicken-fillet rolls.
“We’ve brought in a full-time chef, Ray Hogan, who is bringing in different food-to-go concepts, fresh salads, different recipes,” says Liddy. “We actually find a lot of women in the local area come in to ask him for advice on how to cook things. They value his expertise. That’s part of the customer-service approach we’ve always had here, and the new set-up only reinforces that.”
In addition to the improved food-to-go offer, a new Coffee Dock seating area has been installed, offering customers a chance to ‘take five’, something you might not expect to see in a busy suburban supermarket. “We previously had a seating area close to the tills,” says Liddy. “It was old, and very ‘public’ – you were just inside the door. So we moved it over to a different corner, got brand-new furniture and installed Wi-Fi. The reaction from customers has been brilliant. It’s very popular on a Saturday morning. People come in, have a coffee, read the paper, and then go to do their shopping. They also appreciate the fact that they can buy their coffee and sandwich at supermarket prices and enjoy them here, at no extra cost.”
Costcutter Roslevan has always prided itself on its customer service – part of the reason the store has earned a Costcutter Store of the Year title three years running – and with more competition in the market now (Aldi is reportedly in talks to open a second store in the town), Liddy sees this as being its key USP. “We deliver customer service the way it should be. If a customer needs a hand taking bags out to their car, we’re there to help. We have our own loyalty programme. We know most of our customers by name. We wanted to bring the look of the shop up to match the level of service that we provide.”
Liddy acknowledges the support of Barry Group in ensuring that customer needs are met, both when it comes to value for money and developing new in-store concepts. “Everybody in the Barry Group, whether it’s Jim Barry, John McAllen, Noel Brady, they’re with us every step of the way. One of the things that has worked well for us recently is the ‘big box’ concept: big-box nappies, big-box detergents, that sort of thing. Our customer isn’t interested in buying a four-pack of toilet roll. They want a nine-pack or 18-pack, at a competitive price. They appreciate the added value, and Barry’s have done a lot of work on that. It’s enabled us to become a destination shop.”
Liddy himself is from Newmarket-on-Fergus, around ten kilometres away, and the store enjoys a strong following among locals both in that town and the surrounding area. “It’s down to the location of the store,” he explains. “We’re so close to Exit 13 on the M18 motorway that people can be here in ten minutes. We see our catchment area as being not just the outskirts of Ennis, but all the surrounding villages as well. It takes shoppers longer to get to Dunnes and Tesco, which you have to actually go into town for. That gives us a key competitive advantage.”
The store also has strong ties to the local community, sponsoring the Clare minor camogie team and getting involved in local charity drives – shortly after Checkout visited, Liddy was set to embark on a 300-mile cycle for a local children’s clinic. Local suppliers are also evident on the shelves, such as Biddy’s Bakery from Doolin, whose apple pies were proving popular when we dropped by.
“Any local businesses that come to us, we try and see if we can do business with them. There’s a woman up the road that does a gluten-free bran loaf for our two stores, and nobody else. It’s a point of difference. If people know it’s local and the quality is there, they will buy it.”
While he is, understandably, impressed with the new layout, Liddy is cognisant of the fact that he needs to keep developing the store in line with customer needs. “Everything is constantly evolving, and you need to evolve with it,” he explains. “When we opened as a Costcutter five years ago, you were guaranteed 30 or 40 builders coming in to order a breakfast roll. It was straightforward, and there was no major work or effort involved.
“Now that’s totally changed. We’re selling a lot more salads, home-produced meals, products that require extra care and attention. You need to keep an eye on how the market is changing, keep an eye on what is working, and ask yourself, ‘How do I go about getting this into my store?’”
Judging by the recent work carried out, he’s got a fairly good handle on that already.