Pictured are Jean and Brian Malone, Londis Ardee owners.
Brian and Jean Malone have been serving the needs of the local Ardee area for more than two decades. In that time, they have seen and done it all and when it came to choosing a new symbol partner, they opted to join the Londis family in February of this year. It’s a decision they haven’t regretted and Londis Ardee continues to go from strength to strength. The store itself has been in operation for nearly 30 years. Brian and Jean Malone acquired the forecourt and convenience store two decades ago and after two decades of serving the needs of their community, the couple’s enthusiasm is undiminished. According to Brian and Jean, the two decades have been but a blink of the eye!
History in retail Prior to taking ownership of the store site, Brian owned a garage, Carrickroad Service Station, working there full-time himself and when the opportunity to acquire what is now Londis Ardee presented itself, he and Jean didn’t hesitate. Jean, unlike Brian, had no experience in retailing and was working in accountancy at the time. Her skills, alongside Brian’s experience of the wider industry has proven to be the perfect formula for succeed. In addition, Jean hit the ground running and over the years has taken on increased responsibility in the store operations. The store now provides employment locally to 16 members of staff and they are currently recruiting new staff members to meet the demand of their busy local store, which serves between 850 and 1, 000 people each day. Jean noted the shop is much more popular now than when the doors first opened.
Serving the Community in Ardee Londis Ardee have a largely urban customer demographic. The store is surrounded by a number of new housing developments and has benefitted from increased footfall as a result of these developments. Jean also notes that the store has seen increased casual passing trade as a result of the increasing activity in the area. A large portion of the store’s customer base are workmen and school children who frequent the store daily in both the morning and afternoon. The effect of Covid-10 Of course, over the last two years, Covid-19 has changed the retail landscape for every store and Londis Ardee was no different. Additional measures to ensure the safety of customers were put in place, which included hand sanitizer stations as well as regular cleaning of customer touch points at the till, sanitising the coffee machine and protective plastic screens at the till area. On a personal level, since the coronavirus restrictions emerged in March 2020 Jean and Brian now work more hours on the shop floor than they have any year in the previous 20. As store owners, the couple are now more hands-on in all operations of the business.
Increasing Fresh Food Offering Fresh food has become increasingly important in Londis Ardee since it reopened under the Londis brand in 2020. Bia Blás Deli, Bewley’s coffee, I-Scream ice-cream and Frozen Fanta have all been introduced to the store. Jean believes customers are now willing to spend extra on premium fresh food in-store. Customers are always seeking greater value, which is natural but the majority are willing to pay a little extra for premium, high-quality products. Jean has also noted that customers now buy more products in each transaction, particularly on the weekends.
Changing Preferences Deli staples like spicy chicken and breakfast rolls remain a consistent favourite for customers in Londis Ardee. Tradesmen remain key customers for the store and while they continue to reach for traditional breakfast items and lunch favourites, a notable difference in the past year has been customers opting for healthier options particularly for breakfast and lunch. That said, Jean notes that multipacks of chocolate bars have been increasing in recent times, particularly with work man who frequent the store in the morning time and are clearly stocking up for the day ahead! These packs have been an excellent way to drive impulse sales. Encouraging Customer Loyalty Promoting customer loyalty in an urban area can be difficult with increasing pressure from competition and building personal relationships and promoting a positive store environment remain crucial to retaining repeated custom. The store rewards frequent customers with a free Bewley’s coffee from time to time and Jean believes this gesture has allowed customers feel valued.
Positive Changes Londis Ardee have increased the concessions available in-store since it opened under the Londis brand. A full off-licence has been opened under the striking neon lighting. Fresh foods have also increased. The introduction of ice-cream concept I-Scream, Bia Blás deli and Bewley’s coffee have really proven popular with customers. To allow space in-store for these new concepts the grocery range has been marginally reduced, stocking a core grocery range has allowed the store to retain the essentials every customer requires each day, but has allowed for the expansion of other items and ranges. Trading through a revamp Construction on the revamped Londis Ardee took a period eight weeks and work went on through the night for those weeks. Weekly on-site meetings with the BWG Foods team ensured the project was delivered on time. The biggest challenge faced by the Malone’s was to continue trading while ensuring the store was clean and safe each day. Customers were eager to experience the new concessions in store so were accommodating for inconvenience over the course of the revamp.
The biggest challenge An ongoing challenge in the industry, as Jean attests, is finding and retaining the right staff and the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly exacerbated this challenge. Part time staff can be particularly difficult to find, train and retain but the Malones are grateful for their core unit of 16 staff, who have been terrific throughout the pandemic. Favourite thing about retailing What hasn’t changed for Jean from the day they took over the store is her favourite element of the job, which is the people you encounter on a day-to-day basis. Living and working in Ardee have allowed both Jean and Brian establish strong relationships with the community they serve every day and they look forward to continuing to serve those needs into the future.