Kelly’s Londis Milltown, in County Kerry, has adapted to its growing community in order to keep them coming back and shopping locally. A recent refurbishment, which has more than doubled the size of the store, means that the community now has even more reason to support local. Genna Patterson reports.
The Kelly family-run Londis store in Milltown, County Kerry has been operating for 14 years. Having opened in March 2000, the store has been refurbished over the years to accommodate the growth of the community between Tralee and Killarney.
Most recently the store has been opened up and extended, doubling the size of the store. Such has been the transformation within the store that it could now well be regarded as a flagship for the Londis brand, not only in Kerry, but nationwide.
Owner Seamus Kelly says that as part of this overhaul, they have made stronger features of the deli - which has almost trebled in size - and an off-licence, both of which, he hopes, will prove to be even more successful in terms of their sales participation in store.
He says, “We’ve also added a new bakery offering, which has proved very successful in the short time we’ve had it, and invested in a new Smooch ice-cream offer, which I hope proves to be very lucrative.”
As Kelly explains, recent difficult economic circumstances really focused his mind toward both managing costs and being more efficient with money and time. With this in mind, as part of the recent revamp, new, state of the art LED lighting and energy saving technologies were also added, so as to minimise running costs.
Kelly says that his store is part of the community and therefore, first and foremost, it seeks to maintain loyal customers. He explains, “To do this, we provide competitive prices in both grocery and fuel. We also run weekly specials, which have proven very successful. It goes without saying that customers today, more than ever, need value, and we work hard to ensure that Kelly’s Londis provides for this.”
He adds that a lot of different factors contribute to the success of the store. “Fundamentally, a strong value offering is, of course, essential to our success, but I truly believe that at the end of the day, local customers support the store, because we can meet their needs for quality and value with friendly, supportive, local service.”
The ‘local service’ Kelly refers to also extends outside of the shop floor. He is a keen supporter of the local GAA and actively supports the schools in the Milltown community, sponsoring basketball jerseys for the local school team.
Kelly thinks that supporting local is an important aspect in Irish retail. “It’s clear that customers want to support local indigenous Irish businesses and from my own experience, I’ve been able to bring more and more indigenous Irish brands to our customers through Londis’ centralised chill and ambient distribution facilities.”
Kelly says that Londis now boasts a distribution network that makes relatively lower volume deliveries to individual retailers feasible, even for the smallest of suppliers. “That means I’ve been able to bring more local, Irish brands to my customers,” he says. “Quality, heritage and value all play a role when our customers are making a purchase decision, and if quality and value stack up, I think our customers would always choose to support the local brand, where possible.”
As a forecourt store, fuel is also a key category and as price is so keenly watched by customers, Kelly’s has to ensure it stays very competitive.
Kelly says that he has found working with Londis has really helped him manage his operations effectively. “For example, Londis’ centralised chill facility and online ordering platform have really helped us to minimise operational costs in store, as I can be much more focused with our staffing ratios in store,” he explains. “The addition of fruit and vegetables to the chill delivery has also made the order easier to manage.”
He says that the online ordering platform from Londis has also meant that he is able to really fine-tune his product offering. “I can see how existing products are performing, I can order in line with performance last week, last month or even last year for seasonal lines. And I can see what best sellers in other stores are so I know if I am missing something. Shelf warmers have no place in my store - every item we stock needs to perform!”
Kelly thinks that customers see it as a badge of honour to be seen seeking out the lowest prices and the best value, so as a retailer, the store has had to adapt. He says, “Over the next few weeks, our customers will notice our ‘new look’ Londis Private Label brand in store. The group has brought a bright and vibrant new identity to the range, so our customers will be able to quickly and easily identify the best value products on shelf.
“The world has moved on a lot in the past few years, and it’s important that we move with it to ensure that we stay relevant and continue to meet the needs of our customers.”
Kelly says that his staff are of utmost importance to him too. “What’s been crucially important to me in these tough economic times is the team I have in place, and the commitment and dedication they have shown to the business. My manager, Denis, has been with me for over five years and throughout the shop, the team is very well liked by our customers. I’m lucky to have a group of people behind me who are committed to and care about the business. I firmly believe that when times are more difficult, having the right people in your corner means a lot. We all go the extra mile for our customers.”
Kelly believes that being successful in retail is as straightforward as being customer-focused. “If we don’t recognise our customers as the most important people to walk through our doors and treat them as such, we’re simply deceiving ourselves if we think we can be successful. No retailer will last in such a competitive market if they are not putting their customers first.”
He adds, “Being able to identify the needs of different customers is crucial, which is why as a Londis retailer, I was delighted when the group launched ‘Customer First’. It’s a customer service training programme that helps my team appreciate the wide and varied needs of our customers, and gives them the tools to be able to deliver a level of service that is tailored to each individual customer. As a local, community retailer, what makes me different is how I can personalise each interaction with each of my customers. It’s one area where I have an advantage over larger multiples and discounters and I have to nurture it.”
It is clear that Kelly’s attitude to his store works, and as long as he continues to value his customers, Londis Milltown will continue to be a success.