The Ralph family has a long and successful association with BWG Foods and in particular with the SPAR brand. Maev Martin talks to Ger Ralph, owner and operator of SPAR Dublin Airport about convenience retailing in an airport and celebrating 60 years with SPAR.
The SPAR Dublin Airport store opened in 2018 and was one of the first four stores in the country to incorporate the new SPAR design.
The 900 square foot store is located in the arrivals hall in Terminal 2.
“We opened the current store in the airport in 2018, but we have been operating in different locations in the airport since 1996,” says Ger.
“We are delighted with the new design because it suits our business and fits in well with the modern design experience that is Terminal 2. We are getting great feedback from both Irish and international travellers.”
According to Ger, the product range on offer in the newly-designed store remained the same.
“However, we had to be careful how we fitted it out because, at 900 square metres, we had less space than our previous space in the airport, which was 950 square foot.
"It was only slightly larger, but that extra space can make a big difference.
"One change that we did make in tandem with the new design was to expand our food-to-go offering, in particular our sandwiches and ready meals range, based on the knowledge we have of trading at the airport.
"Grab-and-go is our biggest selling area in the store and these products are very popular with airport staff and with passengers. After food-to-go, our newsagents and giftware, including souvenirs, would be the next biggest sellers for us.”
SPAR Is In The Blood
Ger’s dad, Ger Snr, opened the first SPAR store in 1963 in Artane.
As the SPAR brand is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, it is also a special occasion for the Ralph family.
“My dad Ger Snr and my uncle Anthony opened the store in Artane in 1963, so I suppose you could say that SPAR is in the blood!” he says.
“BWG have been very good to the Ralph family over the years, helping us to find and thrive in many different locations.
"We feel very much part of the SPAR family and we have seen our business grow with the brand.
"Right from the first meeting that my dad attended in the Shelbourne Hotel in 1963 up to the present day, the operators of SPAR Ireland, now BWG Foods, have made us feel that our business is important to them.
"We have been around for a long time, but we never feel that our business is taken for granted, and we don’t take their backing lightly either.”
At the time of writing, the Ralph family, along with many other SPAR and EUROSPAR retailers from all over the country, were preparing for the SPAR and EUROSPAR Convention in the Europe Hotel in Killarney.
This year’s conference is a particularly important one as it celebrates 60 years of the SPAR brand.
“The conference theme is, of course, the 60 years celebrations and we are very much looking forward to attending and participating in the celebrations,” says Ger.
Apart from the Dublin Airport store, the Ralph family operates five other SPAR and EUROSPARs in Dublin and Meath.
“My brother Fergal and I operate two EUROSPAR stores – one in Dunboyne in Co Meath and one in Feltrim in Co Dublin, as well as three SPAR stores – Longwood in Meath, Clonee in Dublin 15 and Holy Well in Swords," he says.
"All of these stores are neighbourhood stores whereas the airport is a grab-and-go fast-paced retail environment with a much more curated offering than our other SPAR outlets.
“We employ 140 people in total across our six SPAR and EUROSPAR stores, including 10 people at Dublin Airport – four full-time and six part-time.”
Ger and Fergal’s brother Declan Ralph is retail development director in BWG Foods.
Before making the move in 2018, the SPAR Dublin Airport store had previously occupied a unit directly across from its current location at the airport.
“We have operated in a number of locations in Dublin Airport, starting in the carpark in terminal 1 in 1996 and then moving to Terminal 2 when it opened in 2010 before moving to our current location having won the tender to continue to trade in 2018,” says Ger.
“We have to win a competitive tender before we can operate at the airport, which comes up every four years and nine months.”
Curated Offer, Iconic Brands
Space is at a premium at Dublin Airport and the SPAR team has to work with what they are given.
“This is where the BWG Retail Development team come in as they use their experience of different layouts to help us, and SPAR retail advisors have helped us to select the right SPAR ranges and layouts for the airport location,” says Ger.
"We have many different shopper profiles in our store such as airport staff and frequent flyers, and because we are in the arrivals hall, we have the meeters and greeters who come to meet people as they come off the plane, and we have departing and arriving passengers.
"Grab-and-go is universal to all of their needs, and then each cohort of shopper also has their specific needs, which we can cater for.”
Is SPAR Dublin Airport offering any special promotions or initiatives for consumers this year to reflect the cost-of-living crisis?
“This is a bigger issue for our other stores and BWG are very conscious of financial pressures,” he says. “They have put a lot of work into offering keen prices to customers and helping retailers to control rising costs.”
© 2023 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Maev Martin. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.