Mulkerns Eurospar, Newry, County Down

An expansion which enabled drinks to be brought into the main shop and allowed space for a tasting area have helped this family-run store to upsell in wine and premium spirits. 

This store has been run by members of the Mulkerns family for 42 years. Two sons and a daughter now own the business and the team works hard to ensure it is a key part of the local community. It has gone through four or five redevelopment processes over the years, with the most recent being two years ago, as manager Thomas Magennis explains.

What changes were made when the store was redeveloped two years ago?

We added 2,000sq ft to the store, making it 7,500sq ft in total, so it was a major project.

The off-licence area was crucial to this transformation as it was originally housed in a separate unit altogether. When we redeveloped the store we incorporated it into the same unit. It was a separate business under the same roof but now it is all one store. We are restricted here by licensing laws so the off-licence is still separated off in the store and no one under the age of 18 is allowed in that area. We have to have a separate till, and the opening hours are slightly different.

When we redeveloped two years ago we also added an in-store bakery, a hot food counter, a deli and a sandwich bar.

What is the BWS area like?

We have a huge range and it takes up a good footprint of the store. We have seen quite aggressive growth in BWS sales over the two years since the redevelopment.

Basically we are now a one-stop shop and that has encouraged people to come to us to get everything under one roof.

We find that people do their grocery shopping first and go to the till, then they move into the off-licence area afterwards.

We have a huge range of drinks, and I think it has really gone from strength to strength.

We probably have one of the best selections of BWS in the area. It includes value options right through to premium products.

What is your competition like?

It’s quite competitive around here, but I think competition is healthy. We have a wholesaler two miles down the road which does a lot of cross-border trade, and then there are other stores in the area too.

Our store is big and it has a post office, plus we have lots of parking space here and we are open from 7am until 11pm, with hot food and other options.

The most recent transformation of the business has really encouraged more people to shop here more often.

What sells well in BWS?

We have been working on upselling and this has worked very well in wine. We now sell wines priced above £20 and we have a regular customer base for these, with one wine from California doing particularly well.

We have 80 to 100 gins and these are selling so well, especially the local ones. Whisky is also doing quite well and we are seeing a trend for people moving from the regular Powers and Jameson over to the more premium and crafty options.

How do you keep customers coming back?

Because we now have a really spacious area in store we have been able to incorporate a dedicated tasting area. We also use this space to run competitions, so over the summer of 2018 we did a World Cup competition in which people could win a flat-screen TV. We had the

TV on in-store in the middle of the tasting space so that people could see what they could win.

We have in the past tried linking food with alcohol as a meal deal, but we decided customers were buying these things anyway, so we were just cutting our own margins.

What are your plans for the future?

We would like to add more refrigeration into the BWS area as we are seeing good sales of Prosecco, and we might look at some other sparkling options.

We have basically become victims of our own success and the redevelopment was so successful that we are now restricted by space and need to expand again.

We do have plans in place to expand further to aid growth. The store has been doing really well over the past two years. Before that we had 65 members of staff and we have had to increase this to meet demand, so we now have 120.

We have really grown rapidly but there’s more we can do if we had more space.

The off-licence area is really interesting for us because we are not so tied to certain wholesalers as we are with the grocery business. It means that if customers come in and request certain local beers or gins we can go out and find these, and we can stock new things really quickly. It’s something we will be able to do more of once we expand again.

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