Retail excellence feted as Connolly’s Mace scoops national award

 Connolly’s Mace in Castlerea recently scooped a national award for retail excellence at the Mace Retail Excellence Awards.             Store Manager Declan Connolly was delighted when it was announced that the Castlerea store won the national award. Since he took over in February 2006, the business has gone from strength to strength, with turnover up by 25 percent and Declan has lots of plans to keep that upward momentum going in months and years to come, including Customer Friday (which takes place this Friday) and extended opening hours until 11 pm, starting from Monday next.             ‘The award was for retail excellence, which includes shop presentation, hygiene, client service, pricing and fresh produce, which included red meat, fruit and vegetables. I took over the shop in February 2006 from Mangan’s in Ennis and this February we celebrated our first anniversary.’             Declan Connolly knows the retail business inside out. He started working in DH Burke’s in Tuam at the age of 14, while still going to school. He stayed with that company for many years, before taking up a position in Dunnes Stores. He went on to work his way up the ladder with Dunnes, working in Galway, Cavan and Dublin and he spent time working in sales and marketing with Dunnes before venturing out on his own.             ‘My ambition was to return to the west and set up my own business. The opportunity came up and I took it. We re-merchandised the shop and put a lot of energy into customer service and that would be a major part of our business, as well as fresh produce and pricing.’             The traceability of meat the meat counter is something which Declan puts great emphasis on. All of the meat is supplied by Boyle Country Meats in Roscommon. ‘People like to know, down to the farm, where the meat comes from. I have personally been out to the farm a couple of times during the year,’ said Declan.             A new country deli is another popular feature being rolled out by Mace nationally. Connolly’s Mace has a range of cold and hot foods. The cold food includes sandwiches, baguettes and panini, while the hot food includes wedges, pies, burgers, chips and sausage rolls. Students attending the deli can also avail of a weekly draw for a range of great prices.             ‘My primary concentration is on customer service and looking after the customer’s every need. We get products in for customers, phone taxis for them or personally bring them home if we can.’ Pricing is another important factor and Declan is always striving to ensure that his customers have the best prices in what is a competitive market.             ‘In June we started Customer Friday, it’s the last Friday every month. We have a lady in, Freda Fox, and we give out free tea and coffee and light refreshments to all our customers and have a draw for a free DVD player or some other prize.             ‘It has been a huge success and takes place this Friday from 10 am to 7 pm. It’s something our regular customers appreciate and our new customers are surprised and very impressed. Since I started it, it has brought about an increase in business and I plan to continue it.’             ‘Overall, I’m very pleased with the turnover in the business. Since taking over, there has been a 25 percent increase in business and we are maintaining that quite well in a tough competitive environment.’ From next Monday, the store will be open until 11 pm seven nights each week, a move which is sure to prove popular with customers.             So, what are Declan’s plans for the future? ‘I intend to concentrate on customer service and try and drive the business and reduce prices. I will be working with Mangan’s cash and carry with product promotions to get the benefit of bulk buying with Mangans.’             Concluding, he pointed to the fact that there is ample parking around the shop and paid tribute to all staff involved. ‘We have a good team and I recognise the effort and co-operation of the staff in running of the business. We employ 24 people, all of whom are local people and the plan is, the more business we do, the more people we will employ.’