Building on strong foundations
Entering the newly-renovated premises of Redmonds of Ranelagh, one is immediately impressed with the transformation, even before realising the extent of the range of beers, wines and spirits available. The shop is filled with a warm, soft light and the atmosphere is both comfortable and relaxing.
Jimmy and Aidan Redmond were born to the trade, as their father James operated a grocery with off-licence from their present site over 60 years ago. The two joined the business as boys and have watched their father’s premises grow from 600 sq ft to almost three times that size in the intervening period.
The new look of the Ranelagh outlet has benefited from some inspirational design. Jimmy and Aidan had been impressed by the work of Bill Simpson, a retail designer who previously worked for Brown Thomas.
However, the duo became sceptical when they initially asked his advice on their own premises. But, having tried some of his suggestions within the existing outlet, and having seen the success, they became converts and were delighted to incorporate his design strategy within their development.
Whilst recognising that the purpose was to create the most efficient means to promote sales, the design also includes several distinctive features. Amongst these are the 2,352 dark green bottles which fill the top shelves on each wall. The dark green colour was not chosen lightly or, as it happens, very easily. Once chosen, the required quantity had to be sources and shipped from New Zealand specifically for the project.
Good design is not just about how something looks, but also about how it functions. Innovation was at the heart of much of the design of these premises, including the incorporation of low voltage, high energy lighting, where the strongest bulb is 35 watts.
The old shop had 150 watt bulbs to the front and 75 watt bulbs to the rear. The new lighting gives a softer light, is just as bright and has substantially reduced the running costs. Innovation is evident too at the till where credit card payments have become a two-second transaction in their internet-based card payment system. "It was expensive, but worth it for the consumer".
Although the job included the removal and recreation of the first floor, construction for the project took 14 weeks, with an additional three weeks for fitting. Redmonds continued to trade throughout the work, closing until 5pm on one particular day to allow for the electrical work to be completed. Jimmy and Aidan were very impressed with their team; Architect Michael O’Donnell, builders Mossdale Construction, and shopfitters, Systems Plus.
Attention to detail
The attention to detail, and the level of forethought, is evident throughout the shop. The floor is a washed sandstone porcelain tile. The difficulty with typical tiles of this sort is that the finish prevents the tile from being sealed sufficiently to prevent staining from an accidental breakage of a bottle of red wine. The solution was to source a "low honeycomb" tile, which although having a textured look, was capable of being properly sealed for the purpose.
Visitors to Redmonds of Ranelagh are struck by the familiar relationship that exists between the Redmond brothers and their customers. Clearly these are relationships built up over time, with respect and courtesy on both sides.
Jimmy and Aidan really know their customers. This is an enterprise built on repeat business and one that is based on the pleasure of doing business, which is obvious on seeing either of them engaging with their customers. It is because of their enjoyment in doing so that they don’t display tasting notes for their wines. "We want a personal engagement and a relationship with our customers and not having tasting notes does work".
Customers appear more inclined to engage, as they can often take the presence of tasting notes as a signal that reading the notes is the preferred means of communicating in a particular outlet. The personal touch works in Redmonds, with an 85% rate of repeat business and regular customers coming from Stillorgan, Rathgar and Terenure.
Shopping the shop
Jimmy and Aidan have found that many aspects of their business have been affected by the new premises. "The change prompted a look at everything. We became more aware of how people shopped the old shop. It was like an old glove. People knew it so well. New customers weren’t finding the product because they were being swamped by it."
Customers are now "shopping the shop" to a far greater extent. "The interaction of consumer and product is far greater. There is no clutter."
Existing customers are seeing and buying products other than those they habitually purchased down the years. The process of establishing how best to use the new layout has been one of trial and error. "It took us 10 months to find out how best to use the floor space without adversely affecting the wall shelving."
Taking that long look at every aspect of their business has been rewarding for Redmonds. The opening up of their existing windows and the replacement of timber-framed doors with entirely-glass doors has encouraged more impulse purchases. The brothers watch, with increasing amusement, as passers-by stop on seeing the large window display and then come into the shop to make a purchase.
Real value for money
Given the economically-stringent times, getting the customers over your threshold is only part of the job. Making the sale has often become more difficult and, while the new design has made that task so much easier, the Redmond brothers have found that there is more appreciation for a bargain or a discount than heretofore. Special offer pricing in the shop now specifically highlights the saving as well as the reduced price. It would seem that people like to be reminded that they are getting real value for money.
Despite the recession, Jimmy and Aidan have already seen the impact of the new premises on their business. The mix of sales has changed. There is a greater proliferation of premium sprits. "Like everyone just now, we’re selling less spirits than we were, but although people are buying less, they’re buying better." For a shop that had such a strong reputation for having a huge range of beers, the Redmond brothers have found it interesting to see that the renovations have had an effect here too.
"There’s now a greater willingness for people to shop the entire fridge." In line with other specialist beer retailers, Redmonds has seen the increasing move towards premium beers, where people are buying a 75 ml beer in the same way as they buy wine and "replacing a bottle of wine with a bottle of beer on a given night". The new-look has also encouraged the wine customer to move to a higher price point. While the volume business is multiple-oriented, Redmonds’ customers are buying a better bottle of wine than previously.
Importance of NOffLA
As a former NOffLA chairman, Jimmy had been involved in the association "for more years than I care to remember" and stayed involved because of the "buzz I get out of it" and because "I felt that I am paying my dues to the trade". He is delighted with the progress he has witnessed within the association over the years and feels that "NOffLA is where it all happens". Since stepping down as chairman, Jimmy has reduced his involvement in the association "to encourage new blood and new ideas".
Jimmy has seen a lot of changes in his 30 years in the trade, but he would see the growth in customer education about wine as being the most radical during that time. He has also been pleased to see the increasing levels of service on offer by the independent trade. Jimmy feels that rather than selling products, NOffLA members are providing a far more complete package. When he says "service is paramount", he explains that members of the independent off-trade should re-define themselves as "service providers" rather than retailers.
When asked if given the timing they might not have done the work had they known of the extent of the recession, Jimmy is pragmatic about it: "Well, we did do it and we’re here now". Having said that, he does ponder, given recent facelifts at the Centra, Spar and Superquinn off-licences within 500 yards, "Where might we have been if we didn’t do it?"
Whilst the new premises are magnificent, the core of this business is about the relationship of its proprietors with their customers. Having found a product here that was unavailable elsewhere; new customers become regulars, to whom Jimmy is fond of advising, to save time and effort, "Always start with the best first".