‘As we settled down to our ‘new normal’, it is important to share who is behind the scenes in Guaranteed Irish. It might surprise you that the organisation is a not for profit and all Directors, thought leaders in their own field, are voluntary. They give their time freely and each week, I hope to introduce you to them, asking them some questions that might help you and your business return to work and overcome this pandemic.
Allow me introduce you to Martin Kelleher Managing Director, Musgrave Retail Partners Ireland, who represents the retail sector on the Board,’ Brid O’Connell CEO, Guaranteed Irish.
Q&A with Martin Kelleher Managing Director, Musgrave Retail Partners Ireland.
Firm name and address: SuperValu and Centra, Musgrave Retail Partners Ireland, Tramore Road, Cork.
How many are employed in SuperValu and Centra? Together, SuperValu and Centra employ approximately 25,000 people in communities across Ireland.
What is the USP of the firm? SuperValu is Ireland’s leading food retailer, with 223 stores nationwide, serving over 2.6 million customers every week. Together with its retail partners, SuperValu employs approximately 14,500 colleagues.
Centra is Ireland’s leading convenience retailer, with a total of 473 stores across Ireland, employing almost 11,000 people and serving over three million customers per week.
How do you engage with your local community? SuperValu and Centra stores are owned by independent retailers who live in the communities in which they operate. This makes them an integral part of their local communities Centra and SuperValu retailers support local charities and sporting organisations, donating approximately €3 million to their local communities,
SuperValu’s sponsorship of the GAA Football All-Ireland Championship has allowed us to support the development of the game – from where it all begins at grassroots level in towns and communities across Ireland, to players who represent their parish.
SuperValu have also been the proud sponsors of the SuperValu TidyTowns Competition, one of the largest community environmental programmes in Europe, for nearly 30 years. The competition inspires thousands of passionate volunteers and a record number of almost 1,000 committees to deliver a range of extraordinary projects every year.
We also use our unique position in the heart of Irish communities to make positive changes for people with autism. Working with AsIAm and Middletown Centre for Autism, over 100 SuperValu stores offer autism-friendly shopping times, with reduced lighting and noise, and our Autism Friendly Towns campaign, which shows that communities fully accessible for autistic people are stronger, more sustainable places.
Centra’s national community partnerships are focused on our GAA hurling sponsorship and our initiative with Irish Cancer Society to raise awareness about breast cancer. Last year’s programme saw Centra stores around the country organise Cups Against Breast Cancer coffee mornings and Pink Walks throughout October.
What are the challenges that your business has had to face as a result of Covid-19? Throughout Covid-19, we have made the safety of staff and customers our number one priority. SuperValu and Centra acted early and swiftly to implement a range of safety and protection measures. Staff ensured that all our office-based staff were working from home before the government announced the lockdown which meant we had settled into remote working before signs of panic buying emerged. We provided comprehensive training to staff, that introduced a range of social distancing and safety measures in-store, including adding plexiglass at tills, upweighting sanitisation protocols in store, making available customer sanitisation stations and raising the contactless payment threshold.
As the country went into lockdown we also focused on ensuring shelves in SuperValu and Centra stores were replenished every day. We needed to reassure our customers that the supply chain was robust, that there was plenty of stock and that shelves were replenished on a daily basis. Initially we saw panic buying on some items such as toilet paper and pasta. In order to ensure each customer got their fair share of products we had to introduce some quotas in some stores for a limited period of time.
Some urban stores saw decreased footfall as increasing numbers of people worked from home. We established a resource hub to move staff from stores will lower activity to other areas such as on-line shopping that required additional resources.
We also saw a shift in consumer spend away from deli counters and food to go, to an increased focus on staples. SuperValu and Centra were fast to address this challenge by providing prepacked ready meals and by ensuring our stores were well-stocked with ranges that reflected the new reality of working from home. For example, with renewed interest in baking, we worked with our suppliers to ensure we had a consistent supply of flour products, which have increased in sales by 200%.
What are you doing in your business to overcome these challenges in relation to (a) staff and (b) customers?
To ensure the upmost protection of staff and customers we are following all recommended guidance from health and food authorities, as well as taking external independent advice on best practice. We have established COVID specific on-line learning tools and programmes for staff and have field-based teams to support each store in the implementation of the various measures.
We already had a wide range of digital tools in the business. The challenged of forced remote working meant we overcame a steep learning with pace and our ways of working will have changed forever. We increased our internal, communications in order to ensure that all our staff are connected to each other and the new business reality. Colleagues have adapted brilliantly to new ways of working and communicating. We have many learnings that we are taking from this experience to improve our overall efficiency.
SuperValu and Centra staff have gone above and beyond in store and in serving their community during this period. As soon as precautionary measures were introduced, and the pressure was on to keep food on the shelves we say staff do everything they could to ensure customers and colleagues were safe and fed. In order to ensure our most vulnerable customers could get their shopping delivered stores delivered groceries by increasing on-line deliveries, offering new “ring and collect” services and partnering with local volunteering with wonderful local community groups.
How has your supply chain infrastructure dealt with the increase in demand within your sector? SuperValu and Centra are fortunate to have a very robust supply chain in place, and we responded swiftly and early to Covid-19. These responses included re-assigning staff from other areas of the business to support our supply chain function and ensuring our fleet of 500 trucks was on the road to replenish stores’ shelves every day.
Naturally, our staff’s health has always been our top priority and we have a range of measures in place to protect warehouse staff and drivers with gloves and wipes to hand sanitisers, as well as cleaning facilities here on site. I am very proud of our drivers and warehouse staff, who together with our retailers and their in-store teams, are the backbone of our operation went above and beyond every day throughout the crisis.
How has retail changed since Covid? Covid has had a profound and long-lasting impact on food retail. This includes the way we serve customers in-store through the implementation and provision of social distancing and in-store safety measures as well as how we ensure our retail partners and their staff are adequately trained to implement these measures and adhere to the necessary hygiene protocols.
Covid has also accelerated the need for online shopping and delivery; as Ireland’s leading community retailers, Centra and SuperValu have risen to this challenge in order to serve vulnerable members of their communities. To deliver an increasingly sophisticated online experience, we have mobilised staff from areas of the business where activity has decreased and have put those resources into further developing our online infrastructure.
Consumers have also adapted rapidly to the new retail reality: this means observing social distancing rules in-store, engaging with Centra and SuperValu retailers and organisations such as the GAA in communities across Ireland to support the vulnerable or by focusing on purchasing staples to cook at home, from a consumer perspective there has been a sea change in consumer trends.”
Have you seen an increased demand for locally produced food as a result of Covid? We’re seeing a renewed interest in and love for established food products, and we’re also noticing increased interest among consumers for sustainable, locally-sourced food. Centra and SuperValu stores are proud to support local producers where possible. In May, we listed 15 new indigenous food producers in SuperValu stores through the Food Academy programme.
Food Academy is a unique food business development programme between SuperValu, Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) that helps early-stage Irish food and drink businesses to get their start in the food retail sector with their first, all-important supermarket listing in SuperValu. This support for local is all made possible by SuperValu’s independent retail model, whereby retailers can give SuperValu Food Academy members access to one or a small group of stores, allowing them to manage demand as they grow their operations. To date, 620 producers have come through the programme, with 272 producers currently enrolled in the programme.
What has your organisation done to support local producers during this pandemic? More than any other Irish retailer, we are committed to building sustainable communities and supporting local producers, with 75% of all products on SuperValu shelves sourced locally. We purchase more than €2 billion worth of Irish goods from over 1,800 Irish suppliers annually with 100% of SuperValu’s branded meat including beef, lamb, pork, bacon and chicken is born, bred and reared in Ireland.
Similarly, milk for SuperValu’s Own Brand range is 100% Irish, sourced from creameries throughout the Republic of Ireland. Our stores hire from the local community, and we invest substantially in our people, with a range of in-store experts including butchers, fishmongers and bakers.
Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to support local and have highlighted to customers through our media channels the importance of supporting and buying local and Irish. This gives the public a greater understanding of the high-quality producers they support when they shop at SuperValu and Centra.”
What made you decide to become a member of Guaranteed Irish? Supporting local has been in SuperValu and Centra’s DNA for the past 40 years. It defines who we are, what we do and how we work to support communities across Ireland. We are also fortunate to be part of Musgrave, a retail group with a proud 140-year heritage of growing its business in a sustainable manner. Like Guaranteed Irish and its other members, SuperValu and Centra are committed to building a sustainable national economy and we will continue to all work together as a collective to address the challenges posed by Covid-19.
Has being a member of Guaranteed Irish helped during Covid-19? It has never been more important to support local and Irish, and Centra and SuperValu are proud to be members of Guaranteed Irish during Covid-19. Working together while staying apart, we will all overcome this challenge and emerge stronger and more resilient afterwards.