SuperValu And Centra Invest €28m Ahead Of Deposit Return SchemeIndustry professionals from around Europe and within the Musgrave Group visit this store regularly to see what best in class looks like. That’s what my fellow visitor to SuperValu Rathgar, retail consultant Sharon Yourell Lawlor, told me as we chatted over coffee and mince pies on 20 December last. Once you’ve seen this store, it isn’t hard to believe. Maev Martin reports
An excellent design and carefully thought out approach to the layout ensures that SuperValu Rathgar rises to the many challenges that operating in a medium-sized 10,000 square foot store can bring.
Chief among these is the fact that a small and expensive carpark means that SuperValu Rathgar is better suited to the basket shoppers who visit on foot than those travelling by car to do a weekly trolley shop.
“While some of our customers do regular trolley shops in-store, most of our shoppers are coming on foot, so we have to ensure that they get the most out of their basket shop,” says store manager Barry Little.
“This made the design and layout of the store a big challenge and it is why our product range and store layout is so important to the success of the store. It is one of the reasons why we have to work hard on presentation and product location to retain business and attract new customers.”
Social Media Masterclass
SuperValu Rathgar also provides a masterclass in how to manage and best utilise a store’s social media platforms.
Their Instagram page is colourful, inviting and engaging, featuring both special offers in-store as well as news of events and promotions that are unique to the store.
For example, Eddie Mumtaz is a chef who manages the tasting station that is a permanent fixture in SuperValu Rathgar.
This station plays a central role in the store’s strategy to deliver an experiential shopping journey for its customers.
What Eddie creates and shares with shoppers at this station is also shared on SuperValu Rathgar’s social media platforms, in particular on its Instagram page.
“We know Eddie’s tasting schedule and what he is cooking and we can quickly share that with shoppers online as well as in-store,” says Barry.
“Eddie cooks at the tasting station from Wednesday to Sunday and we have an open door policy for local suppliers that are on the Musgrave Group’s suppliers list who are keen to promote their products at the station – the more of these suppliers that we can stock on our shelves the better the offer will be for our customers.
"Eddie shares his recipes with customer who visit the tasting station and all of the ingredients that they need to create these tasty dishes are available in-store.”
Those ingredients, including the various products at their meat and cheese counters, the neatly stocked condiments at The Cook’s Pantry, and the off-licence section, are also conveniently located near the tasting station.
“Our social media presence is focused on creating a foodie experience around the products that we sell in-store,” he says.
“A key part of our social media presence is promoting those products and ingredients via recipes and showing how they can be cooked and incorporated into meals. Our Instagram platform is something that we are very proud of as it goes beyond ‘here is a new product and this is the special offer.’
"It offers customers new food ideas and recipes for cooking our products and this approach has really paid off and has helped to boost our sales in-store.
"Similarly, our tasting station gives the shopper information on the product they are tasting and on how to cook it and use it as part of their diet.
"Our Instagram presence is totally different to what other SuperValu stores are doing. However, we can see that other SuperValu stores are copying it, which is great!”
The re-launch of this store, following its extensive makeover, took place on 1 December 2022.
While this makeover is in keeping with the latest revamps to other Musgrave Operating Partners Ireland stores, such as SuperValu Blanchardstown, which opened at the end of November 2023, and SuperValu Knocklyon, which opened in 2022, it features elements that are specific to the Rathgar operation.
For example, Barry tells me that they spent the previous 12 months training staff.
“Delivering a consistency of product and service standards, from opening time at 7am to closing time at 10pm, is a priority for our team here at SuperValu Rathgar,” he says.
“The labour market is tough, so we have to look after staff, hence the investment in staff training.”
SuperValu Rathgar employs 45 staff, which includes a mix of full- and part-time personnel.
“The staff were involved in the decisions about the location of various sections in-store and in product selection,” he says.
“We also hosted a tasting day in Lucan which gave our team a complete understanding of the products they would be talking to customers about.
"They also met our suppliers and they gave us their feedback on the products we were planning to stock.”
Seamless Shopping Experience
SuperValu Rathgar opened in 2010 and began its trading life as a SuperQuinn store.
It experienced its first revamp in 2018, but this latest incarnation is much more extensive and inviting and is centred around the store’s fresh food offer.
“There used to be two checkouts and two exit points, which was challenging, and customer research revealed that this layout wasn’t conducive to a good customer flow throughout the store,” says Barry.
“We now have a checkout at the Orwell Road exit and shoppers can enter and exit there or from Highfield Road.
"This makes it a much more seamless experience for our customers.
“We also opened up the fruit and vegetable space – we have a particularly strong loose fruit and vegetable footprint in this store.
"In fact, we have a bigger loose fresh products footprint than other SuperValu stores, although SuperValu Blanchardstown has replicated our approach.
"Our loose fresh products footprint includes tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, and fruit, all in one zone.
“It also includes our ‘exotic’ table that features Forcina peaches, heirloom tomatoes, and Nashi pears.
"There is an appetite among consumers to try new things and there is clearly an appetite among our shoppers for these products.
"SuperValu is a good go-to retail brand to satisfy that need.”
Good, Better, Best
According to Barry, this revamp was all about creating a premium shopping experience across the entire range in-store.
‘Greengrocer’ and ‘Organic’ are the first signs that you see on entering SuperValu Rathgar, setting the tone for the type of experience that this store provides and guiding the shopper as to how best to move around the store.
SuperValu Rathgar also has the largest Donnybrook Fair fixture in any SuperValu store and, unlike other SuperValu stores, it has also allocated a section of its deli counter to Donnybrook Fair products.
“The store’s design and layout is the culmination of a 12-month deep dive across the ranges in-store, looking at good, better and best, and during that deep dive we discovered, among many other things, that we were selling 16 different types of lasagne!” says Barry.
“Good is SuperValu own brand products, better is our Signature Tastes brand, and best is the Donnybrook Fair brand, so we cater for all segments of the market.”
However, Barry is keen to point out that, despite the premium feel throughout, SuperValu Rathgar appeals to all types of shoppers and age groups.
“Ambient is where the value is and our promotions are featured in this section,” he says.
The use of digital displays in the store is very strategic and effective as it covers key messaging on sustainable features as well as product location.
Popular sections in-store include the salad bar and hot food-to-go station, The Happy Pear’s entire plant-based range, which is selling strongly, and their scratch bakery, which has a patisserie look and feel, with fresh cakes and bread available all day, every day.
SuperValu Rathgar also features “one of the busiest juice-to-go machines in Ireland” and a seating area to the right of the Highfield Road entrance, with a coffee machine conveniently located nearby.
Too Good To Go
The customer profile at SuperValu Rathgar is a vibrant mix of students and residents.
“The SuperValu brand is all about the local community and we play an active part in that community,” says Barry.
“We don’t just supply products to various groups – our staff participate in local events as well, and they help with local activities, such as street clean ups.”
One community initiative that has provided value for money for its shoppers, and helped the store to meet its sustainability objectives, is its partnership with Too Good To Go, the app that rescues unsold food from restaurants and shops.
“This has been a very successful initiative for us,” he says.
“We were one of three SuperValu stores that trialled this partnership and we have found that a diverse mix of customers are buying the bags.
"Being a part of this initiative provides further value to our customers, and it helps us to cut down on the waste we generate.”
A Ringing Endorsement
Coincidentally, as Sharon and I were chatting to Barry outside the off-licence section, and complementing him on the strategic positioning of various sections in-store, we were approached by a shopper who was anxious to share his positive experience.
The gentleman, who was in Rathgar that day and popped into the store for a snack, was Professor Mario MacBlain from the School of Business and Humanities in Dundalk Institute of Technology.
He also happens to be chairman of the business awards run by Louth Chamber of Commerce.
He told us he was ‘jaw droppingly impressed’ with the store and remarked on its ‘perfect’ and easy to navigate layout.
This came as no surprise as SuperValu Rathgar won the Retail Store of the Year – Medium Supermarket category in the Checkout National Grocery Retail Awards 2023, but I’m sure they could find room in their awards cabinet for another accolade!