Sunday 23 September 2018

Appearing in St Patrick's Day parade is way to win big

Problem Solver

Feargal Quinn
Feargal Quinn

Feargal Quinn

Q. I run a factory in a regional town and we have been asked to participate in the St Patrick's Day parade. I am just not sure I can justify the expense.

A. You are wrong! I say that thinking of some great moments we had in the Superquinn era participating in the parade. For several years, we took over 400 of our front-line staff into the parade with large articulated floats made entirely from food produce.

Like you, we struggled to justify why we would do it at the beginning. The cost was not insignificant, and the challenge of organising 400 staff was even more daunting. Our decision to participate probably was not based on numbers. We looked more at the opportunity to give something back to the city, to create a unique opportunity for our staff and of course, to showcase all that we were good at. The result was astounding.

Every Sunday morning for six weeks leading up to the parade, staff would congregate in the underground car park in the Blackrock shopping centre and with a creative director and choreographer they would march up and down learning their dance steps and having a great time. Remarkably, in parallel, the atmosphere in our shops rose by a number of decibels.

A separate team worked with our shop fitters to create the food identity for our floats and dozens of staff and suppliers were on hand to painstakingly pin on thousands of apples, cauliflowers and breads to create the mobile masterpiece.

The team even devised a way to keep tens of thousands of Superquinn sausages hot at the back of the floats which were then dispensed to those lining the streets. We entered four years in a row and won overall best entry award one year. You can detect from the tone that I am totally biased and would love to be doing the same today. I have no hesitation in giving this project the thumbs up.

Q. I run an artisan craft bakery in a reasonably busy location, but I am finding it hard to get sales to a profitable level. Do you have any tips?

A. As you know I am a big fan of bakeries and in all the 22 Superquinn shops, we had a bakery offer. You have something truly unique and the challenge could be that your potential customer base either doesn't know you exist, or certainly don't understand the scratch production you are doing.

Many of the supermarkets have a token bakery offer and produce some bake-off bread from frozen dough. While there is nothing wrong with this, you will not beat the flavours and taste of bread baked from scratch as you are doing.

Start by being clear on your story - what are you doing, that is dramatically different to other places people might buy bread? Use your social media, your shop window, and door-to-door leaflets to get this message out to others.

I'm sure a local fruit and veg shop or butcher would only be too happy to hand out leaflets to their customers as you are not competing with them. I found in Superquinn, that one of the things that really attracted attention, was when we won awards. There are plenty of bakery award schemes and it would be a good idea to get some of your products into these, so that you could generate some PR in local media and your local community when you secure a win.

Have you thought about third-party supply and supplying some cafes and speciality shops within your own region? That is another way to introduce people to your product outside of your own premises and use this as a marketing tool to promote the bakery itself.

I have seen a number of bakeries which also offer baking classes as baking is popularised through TV shows. You should not find it too difficult to get 10 or more people into a paid bakery class. Ideally this should be run in your premises after hours so that those people are able to interact and see what it is you are doing. I will have a bet with you that out of the 10, nine will probably become regular customers.

The more work that you can do to tell your story, the greater your sales will be.

Send your small business questions to himself@feargalquinn.ie

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