A new-look Lilley’s Centra and forecourt has reopened in Enniskillen following the completion of a £2m investment. With a strong focus on convenience and food-to-go, owner Una Lilley explains how the site is now meeting the needs of a more modern consumer.
The refurbishment, in conjunction with Musgrave and Ulster Bank, included a knockdown and rebuild of the store, as well as an extension of its forecourt.
Hoping to replicate the sterling reputation that the Lilley’s brand has built up in Drumlyon, owner Una Lilley tells Neighbourhood Retailer that they have carried over to Lilley’s Centra Dublin Road many of the same concepts that customers have grown to love and expect from the company.
“When we took over the site in 2016 it was lacking investment but it was also very exciting because there was so much we could do with it,” says Una. “It’s provided so much opportunity for us to expand our brand. We took what we have tried and tested in the original store and updated it, as well as adding a few new things into the mix.”
A fully-stocked off licence, excellent southern fried chicken, and gelato are just some of the things, Una believes the Lilley’s brand has become synonymous with over the years. It’s not a coincidence that two of the site’s biggest draws have groundings in the food-to-go market.
“Definitely, food-to-go is a huge trend. There’s still room for ambient, but the fresh and food-to-go areas are really hitting home with customers because it saves them time. Our first aisle takes up a huge portion of the shop and within that first aisle the focus is primarily on food-to-go,” says Una.
Alongside pre-packaged options, Musgrave’s ‘Green Kitchen’ salad bar concept has been introduced catering to a range of dietary requirements; from vegan to vegetarian, low calories, gluten free, and more.
“Providing customers with healthy options has been so significant over the last couple of years,” says Una. “It’s really important to include a solution for that within the food-to-go space.”
“You need to go with the trends and you need to provide for them otherwise you will find your customers will go elsewhere. I think the fact we can offer everything under one roof is a real selling point; you are making it easier for your customers to shop with you.”
As part of making the shopping experience seamless for the customer, Una opted to add a self-service ‘Hot Box’ display for those who don’t have time to queue or order a bespoke meal. For others who can stay a little longer, the new sit-in area has proved very popular. With free wifi available, customers can choose to use the area to catch up on emails or enjoy a hot drink with friends from the store’s Frank & Honest coffee bar.
Complementing this is a new in-store bakery and Lilley’s Gelato & Ice Cream bar. Now with its own dedicated stand, the ice cream brand has been expanded due to its popularity at the Drumlyon site. Complete with striking lighting and glitter ball decoration, the display is an eye-catching addition to the new store.
“We’re very precious about our off licence and it is something we’re known for in the local area,” says Una. “We’ve also always had a reputation for having a strong food-to-go offer and that reputation stood with us when we opened the Dublin Road site because people trusted that they were going to get good quality products and a varied range from us. “Everything is covered; you don’t have to go anywhere else.”
The off licence has always been a key category for Lilley’s Centra and additional shop floor space has enabled Una to continue expanding on their extensive product range. A walk-in refrigeration unit now stocks an impressive range of wine, craft beers and spirits.
As fresh food solutions are immediately obvious to customers as they walk through the doors of the new Lilley’s Centra Dublin Road, so are the stylish digital shelf edge displays. As the first Centra retailer in Northern Ireland to offer this new technology, Una reveals she “jumped at the chance” when she heard this was something Musgrave could help facilitate.
“It is so labour intensive to sit and rip up paper labels each week and it’s such a boring task for whoever has to do it. With our new systems you just have to press a button and all labels change immediately.
“It’s very clean looking as everything is uniform and it’s accurate too for the customers. You can’t put the wrong label on the product, so there is less chance of error.”
Una, who enjoys picking up new ideas from travelling to bring back to Northern Ireland, believes that this is the way forward for modern retailing.
“It’s more widespread in other countries and digital displays are almost expected now in some places. As more shops adopt digital shelf edge technology in Northern Ireland the price will come down and they will become more accessible. For us, it was the right time to do it because we had a brand new store and we were already putting a lot of investment into it.”
While the contemporary look and feel of the store has wowed customers, it is the Lilley family’s focus on supporting local that has kept shoppers returning.
“We’re always looking for products that you wouldn’t find elsewhere,” explains Una. “It’s something that our customers love in our other store, so we had to replicate it when we opened Dublin Road. People know they can come in and pick up a gift if they are visiting friends and family.”
Situated on the main arterial route to and from Enniskillen, the redevelopment included extending the forecourt to ease congestion and increase parking availability for customers availing of the site’s vast array of facilities. The tired fuel pumps were the first part of the site to receive a makeover.
“We wanted customers to know that we were serious about our commitment to developing the site. The first, and most obvious, way of doing this was to install new pumps.
“The decision was then made to knock down and rebuild the site to create as much parking as we could. Making it easy for customers to get in and out of your site is the key to success; that’s something we learned at Drumlyon.”
The new store allowed Lilley’s to restructure its staff and promote from within as well as adding 15 new jobs in the local area.
“We’re very focused on people in general and with that comes a strong customer service ethos. We concentrate on staff training and like to develop people within the shop. This encourages staff loyalty and the customers love it because they are getting a consistent experience with staff that they know.”
So far, the site has been well received by locals and commuters who are responding well to the modern convenience amenities on offer.
“It is delivering well beyond our expectations at this stage,” says Una. “Musgrave have been great to work with throughout the whole process. They trusted the vision we had for the store and worked with me. The results speak for themselves.”