The Food Store in Claremorris, Co. Mayo was crowned “National Retail Store of the Year2013” at the Retail Excellence Ireland gala awards ceremony in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Galway at the weekend.
As a valued CBE customer, and on behalf of all the staff at CBE, we would like to congratulate Niall, his wife Attracta and all his family and staff on their magnificent achievement.
Pictured at the Retail Excellence Ireland Awards 2012 are (l-r) Keith Rogers, Chairman, Retail Excellence Ireland, Jo Collins, Group Sales Manager, Independent News and Media, President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, Winners of National Retail Store of the Year 2012 The Food Store, Claremorris, Co. Mayo ( Sarah, Attracta and Niall Heffernan) and Peter Sweeney, Senior International Business Manager, Barclaycard.
The following piece was printed in the Sunday Independent Retail Excellence Ireland Awards Supplement:
The Food Store is a comprehensive culinary destination in the County Mayo town of Claremorris which does more than just supply a range of fine foods. A family-run business owned by Niall Heffernan, The Food Store is going above and beyond in playing its part to support local produce and to supply a unique blend of fresh ingredients and ready-made products in its butchery, bakery and deli.
“We make so many of the products here ourselves every day,” says Niall. “We use local suppliers for a lot of different products such as vegetables, as well as a range of sauces and seasonings. And outside of the immediately local suppliers, we carry a huge range of Irish products.”
Part of what has made The Food Store so successful since its establishment in 1900 is the attention to detail that is put into making a range of breads, confectionaries, salads and more from scratch. The Food Store’s delicious coleslaw, for example, is made from carrots and cabbage which are washed, peeled and chopped at the hands of the store’s experienced staff, while products from different departments of the store are combined to create mouth-watering meals such as the chicken and bacon wrap which uses The Food Store’s own stuffing with fresh Irish chicken.
“Our staff are very highly skilled, which is without a doubt one of our biggest assets. We have highly experienced bakers, some of whom are Irish and some of whom we brought in from outside the country, and we have a number of chefs who are working constantly so that we are at all times challenging ourselves to come up with new ideas.
“But these are challenges that we must rise to,” continues Niall. “We have to maintain the standard of our food and the selection of products because we are selling it every day. We continuously encourage our staff to look at how the best in the world are operating and then we do our best to make sure that we are operating in the same way, while always keeping our locality and our customers in mind to make sure that our products suit their needs.
“You need bundles of energy for this job, and staff who come here not just to work but to enjoy what they are doing. It is a constant challenge to think outside the box all the time to ensure we stay where we are.”
Like all businesses, no matter how successful or well established, The Food Store was forced to take a serious look at its business model when the recession hit and to find ways in which it could survive and thrive without compromising on the quality of its produce or its service.
Despite the owner’s intentions, The Food Store was perceived to be a higher end shop in food retail, which proved a challenge in a time when consumers began to tighten their belts.
“We never thought of ourselves as a high end store but that seemed to be the perception, so we looked at doing a lot more special offers and tightening up our cost base in every part of the shop.”
Almost every part, that is. “We never cut any staff hours or wages because our people are so important to us,” explains Niall. “But we looked at every other cost factor we had to make sure we weren’t overspending but could still maintain the standard we were known for. The one thing we really wanted to avoid was to go down the road of selling products cheaper because they were essentially cheap products. We wanted to maintain the quality and integrity of what we do and how we do it, but at the same time give the value for money that customers need right now.”
And survive and thrive The Food Store certainly did. With a recent rebrand and an extensive refit, the shop is enjoying as healthy a business as ever in its existing premises which now exudes a whole new ambience with its mixture of modern fittings and traditional butchery and bakery counters. With strategically placed spotlights over some of the highest quality produce in Ireland, the team at The Food Store have managed to create a new shopping experience for its customers.
But despite all this, Niall still believes that he must keep pushing ahead in order reach a level that he deems successful.
“I have a long way to go yet, but I have a great team around me, which includes my wife and kids, who will help me to get there. We all love what we are doing and we work really hard. But what pushes me the most is the fact that I’m extremely stubborn! I don’t take no for an answer and I don’t accept that things can’t be done – I refuse to look at the negative and will always look for ways to solve any issues that come our way. I learn from my mistakes. I’ve made a huge amount of mistakes but I try not to make them again and to move on from them.”
With its refitted store, its hard working staff and its commitment to selling only the freshest and highest quality produce in food retail, Niall is confident that the future is bright for The Food Store.
“I think people have begun to realise that local Irish food is the way to go. Obviously we must bring certain products in from outside the country but we try to source locally as much as possible, which in turn helps others in the community. And it also results in fantastic food which is grown and cultivated in the area and brought fresh to the shop every day, even down to the eggs we use in our bakery.
“To me that’s the future,” concludes Niall. “There is severe pressure on pricing in this sector so we are not without our challenges. But I honestly think that the future is extremely bright and I can only see good things ahead.”
Commenting on The Food Store’s success David Fitzsimons, Chief Executive Retail Excellence Ireland said “this is the ultimate accolade in the retail industry and nobody is more deserving of the award than Niall and his team. The Food Store is incredible in every sense and I would urge customers to get to Claremorris to visit Niall and his staff – they will be impressed!”