Redmonds can claim to be unique: the only outlet to have won all three NOffLA Specialist awards before finally winning overall National Off-Licence Association’s Off-Licence of the Year this year.
“We’ve always finished extremely high in the competition” comments Jimmy Redmond as he regards the judges comments about the outlet, “and we go through the results every year to see where we ended up, how close we were. Some categories score better than others but we could never argue with it as we accept we don’t conform to certain aspects of the competition but believe instead that we can overcome them – eventually, we did!”
Three judges “… two we’ll know and a mystery shopper” look at different facets of the shop.
“The mystery shopper would be more knowledgeable about customer service and product knowledge, the other two would be more structured insofar as knowing about the overall concept of an independent off-licence, training knowledge or the personal aspects in the much colder light of day.”
He scans the judges’ marking sheet again, commenting, “It’s a very good model to read and there have been times when I’ve read it and not agreed with it and phoned looking for clarification but for the money it’s worth it”.
They’d given up the idea of ever winning but now, having done so, it changes everything — and it changes nothing.
“We’re going to continue in the way we’ve been going,” he explains, “I know it’s not what the judges are looking for, but we’ve always maintained we’ve given a true representation of Redmonds in this competition as we never tried to conform to the criteria just to win it. If we did that we’d be selling ourselves and our customers short. The shop that’s out there today is exactly as it was when judging took place last year.”
Redmons shop layout
Despite two major refits in the past 16 years – both of which Jimmy and Aidan believe were cutting-edge – they’d never won the competition.
The current re-fit, now four years old, presents a ‘cleaner’ layout, believes Jimmy.
“Right now, we wouldn’t change the interior for anything. All the fittings are perfect, all the colours are right but we haven’t managed to optimise how we manage the footfall, how we slow the cusotmer down by making them stop and look,” he admits citing Jus de Vin as being very good at this. When he pays it a visit, he’ll often pick a spot at the back of the shop to get to, “…. but you’re distracted by a set of glassware or a Methusela or some such. I call it ‘the feminine touch’. That’s what we’re trying to create in the floor area here.
“Layouts must change with customer perception. We accept our layout isn’t perfect in the consumer’s eyes but we believe we should continue to make the interior layout – the floor area, the product presentation area – easier to shop”.
Such change is facilitated by Redmonds being a family business. Parents James and Maryfirst opened a grocery shop here in 1943.
“A family business is more flexible and can break its own rules whereas a chain is getting its directions from Head Office and that’s it.
“We’ve always maintained that the shop is a ‘work in progress’.”
This year’s judging noted the very striking and attractive external frontage (well-maintained on a busy road), the excellent range across wines, beers (over 500 different types) and spirits, ‘with real depth and interest across all categories’, the exciting and innovative range of high quality teas, coffee and olive oils supplemented by chocolates and candies. It also noted the strong product knowledge and passionate interest in providing expert advice.
The judges suggested that Redmonds looks to build on the specialist offering and message by actively promoting ideal partner food matches with selected wines and craft beers.
‘There is a real sense of being part of the local community,’ it concluded.
Jimmy has own views.
Against the grain
Where the judges suggested extending the use of hand-written descriptive talkers on wines and craft beers to help re-enforce the independent specialist message, for example, he’s reminded of the time he dropped into one of the Oddbins stores when they retailed in Dublin. Every bottle had a hand-written descriptive note which presented his eyes with a ‘blizzard-effect’ rather than what they strive to achieve in Redmonds.
“It goes against what we are as Redmonds,” he adds, “It’s all about integration and meeting the customer. We want the customer to personally experience our ‘Strong product knowledge and passionate interest in providing expert advice’.
“We’re fortunate to enjoy what we do. I’m not a back-office person and love the integration and connection we have with our consumers.
“It’s not just about buying a bottle of wine and a six-pack of beer, there’s the whole family connection.”
Craft beer confusion?
Nor does he wish to follow another suggestion to review the layout of craft beers by style/country to ensure maximum clarity for consumers.
“This presents pragmatic problems,” he explains, “In trying to categorise beers by style or country, it’s difficult due to the size variations with some beers in 500ml bottles — which would look awkward if sitting beside 330ml bottles, for example — it might give the impression of being bad value.”
The judges also suggested utilising the opportunity provided by Redmonds’ new Loyalty Card scheme to promote added value and cross-purchase categories.
But the brothers consider using Loyalty Cards only for specific promotions as a ‘no-no’.
“Our promotions are for all our cusotmers across our entire range of product,” says Jimmy, “We don’t do particular promotions for loyalty, we do it for all our offerings.
“That way, every customer coming in the door should eventually end up with our Loyalty Card.”
After winning this year’s competitoin, customer numbers are likely to rise substantially…. But it won’t change the Redmonds’ outlook to continuing this ‘work in progress’ – and they’ll continue to suit themselves for their customers.