by Stephen Johnson
FOR Robert and Andrea Whyte, owners of the Kenmare Centra convenience store, 2014 was a record year.
Andrea says the store greatly expanded its offerings of new healthier food ranges, boosted sales of its “own brand” range of products, and saw a sharp rise in pizza sales after introducing a pizza delivery service last spring.
Robert and Andrea have owned the Kenmare store for 20 years. The store employees 23 people, a major employment boost for a small town like Kenmare.
Andrea says that the Kenmare store has a loyal customer base, and does a brisk business from travellers and tourists, thanks to its location at the busy intersection of the Sneem and Molls Gap Roads. The store is a popular stop for cyclists touring the Ring of Kerry and the Wild Atlantic Way.
“Our hard-working, dedicated employees are a big reason for our success,” Andrea says.
Andrea, Robert and their employees are active in the community, donating thousands of euros each year to charities like the St. Vincent de Paul Society, KLAWs, local GAA teams and the Kenmare and Templenoe Rowing Clubs.
The success of the Kenmare store mirrors the success of the Centra chain nationwide. The company had record sales in 2014, taking in more than €1.5 billion – up 3 percent on the previous year.
Robert and Andrea attended this week’s annual conference in Killarney of Centra’s more than 460 franchisees, where Centra’s Managing Director Martin Kelleher announced plans to open 16 new stores in 2015, creating 380 additional jobs. Centra currently employs almost 11,000 people and serves over three million customers each week.
The chain sells more than €1.1 billion of Irish goods, with 7 per cent of all products sold in store produced or sourced in Ireland. An additional €60 million worth of products are sourced by stores locally from over 1,400 small local suppliers.
The Centra chain is run by Musgrave, the Irish food wholesaler, but the stores are all owned by individual franchisees like Robert and Andrea.