Emo adding value at Castlebridge

Since making the switch to Emo, Louis Flannigan’s long-standing site in Castlebridge, Co Wexford, has seen sales soar with his value-led approach

Flannigan’s Centra and Emo forecourt is now resident on the site of a family business that has been serving the Castlebridge community for over 80 years.

Just a short drive north of Wexford town proper, the Flannigan’s first opened a business there in 1937, with its initial fuel pump installed in 1968.

Louis Flannigan took over the site in 1993, and by 2005 six proud pumps stood outside a modern 6,000 sq ft store supermarket.

Louis’ programme of modernisation turned another page last September when he took the decision to join the Emo brand.

Louis Flannigan outside his site

Speaking about the decision, Louis explained: “I went to a site in Wexford and spoke to DJ Cunningham, Emo’s sales manager. I could see that this was a really strong brand with striking imagery.”

After taking the plunge, Louis explained that he couldn’t be happier with the results.

“One of the first things I noticed is that their office was very friendly,” he said. “We’ve only been with them since September, but the difference is huge.

Inside the store

“Their orders are always prompt, and everything is on time. For our customers, too, their prices are great and that’s really important to us. This may be a rural area, but the brand is very popular here. It’s very bright and polished, and we’ve seen a huge increase in the amount of interest at the site.”

According to Louis, partnerships are often like relationships, and so far his Castlebridge forecourt’s pairing with the Emo brand is a match made in heaven.

“I’m very happy with them,” he said. “Many of my customers come here primarily for the Emo brand. It’s got a good vibe, and has injected a lot of positivity into the store and the business.

“That’s all to the benefit of the shop.”

The store’s deli counter

The site’s large Centra convenience store is popular with locals and commuters alike, and has reaped the rewards of the new forecourt fascia.

“Sales at the store since I joined Emo are up 40%, and that’s a huge uplift,” he said, explaining that the range of facilities available makes this a high volume site.

Alongside the Centra store is a valeting garage and car wash, while inside features a fresh butchery counter, a coffee dock, a sit down area, full off-licence, and a cold deli counter.

“We revamped the shop last year, but what we do here is different from the usual high-price convenience,” Louis said.

“We have always made sure our customers can get great value, and don’t get taken to the cleaners. We really base ourselves on providing excellent value to the consumer. It’s one of the reasons this site is so successful.”

Louis’ plans for the site show no signs of slowing, with further developments expected in 2017.

“The plot we have here is some three acres, so we have plenty of room to expand,” he said. “We’re looking at another revamp this year, and we have engineers coming in March to see how we can take the site to the next level.”

The coffee area

One of the other attractive aspects of the site is its key location on the N11 (or R741) from Wexford to Dublin.

Castlebridge is a small, former industrial village, complete with sleepy water wheels and antique dealers.

But it’s in a perfect position to attract commuters between both of Ireland’s biggest south easterly conurbations to drive Louis’ swelling business, while the village itself is growing in size.

“The village has grown from a population of 400 to 4,000 over the last 15 years,” Louis said. “It has really moved on recently.”

As the third generation of the Flannigan family to run the business, Louis has a considerable sense of pride in upholding the reputation of the forecourt that was first opened as a baking shop by his grandmother.

His father had taken on the store from 1956, before Louis took the reins in the early 90s. But it was retail skills learned outside the family business that widened Louis’ vision for the store.

“I had worked at the Dunnes’ head office in Penny Street, Tallaght, in 1988 and was trained up before coming back to the Castlebridge store in 1992,” he explained. “It was a pretty prestigious experience.”

The fresh section

Now Louis is putting all that experience, and the knowledge he has gained from his family-run firm, to good use.

And while things are looking up for the site, Louis is also feeling positive about the market, and is looking forward to strengthening his proposition throughout 2017.

“There’s been a huge uplift in customer sentiment, especially towards local shops and local products, which is key,” he said.

“I have 42 local suppliers stocked in-store and we really depend on them. We have local cakes and breads, and fresh free range eggs sourced from just up the road. It’s all part of having a complete offer and supporting the local community.”