Ireland C-store Crowned International Convenience Retailer of the Year

LONDON -- In a ceremony held last month at the Insight NACS Future of Convenience event here, Centra Rochestown, an Ireland convenience store that combines fresh food, a deli and an inviting dining area, was crowned the 2012 International Convenience Retailer of the Year. This is the third consecutive year the award has gone to an Ireland-based c-store.

Statoil Fuel & Retail, the Norway-based petroleum and c-store chain that was recently acquired by Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., was a highly commended runner-up in the Insight NACS competition, which included some of the world's latest and most innovative convenience store formats.

The International Convenience Retailer of the Year award was presented during the Insight NACS Future of Convenience event in London. This annual event for the European and international convenience petroleum industry attracted delegates from more than 22 countries this year.

An elite panel of judges including Joe Bona, president of the retail division at CBX; Jeff Rogut, executive director of the Australian Association of Convenience Stores; Stephanie Rice, founder of Rice Retail Marketing; and Don Longo, editor-in-chief of Convenience Store News, shortlisted six finalists for the 2012 award. Readers of Insight's international newsletter, Global Convenience Store Focus, were then asked to vote for their favorite online.

Featured in the latest edition of Global Convenience Store Focus, Centra Rochestown puts fresh foods and value at the center of its offer and has a strong community following as a result. The store, owned by Terry and Sieglinde Murphy and run by store manager Mary McGroarty, emphasizes fresh foods with shoppers greeted by coffee, then leading onto bakery and finally fresh fruit and vegetables.

The store has a distinct market feel with plenty of open space. Customers can choose from fresh sandwiches, ready meals or ingredients for dinner at home. An open and inviting area around the deli, meanwhile, enables customers to browse and chat, and has created a real hub at the heart of the store.

The judging panel felt this store demonstrated real local involvement, too. Centra Rochestown is an active participant in the local community. It supports local producers and suppliers, and sponsors the Gaelic Athletic Association, which is brought to life in the community through ticket giveaways, face painting and lots of other activities on match days.

"It is very gratifying for us to be acknowledged and to receive this award and see all the hard work come to light," Terry Murphy said. "The focus has been to be high on convenience by bringing fresh and food-for-now to the front of the store and very local. It's been a huge team effort and we couldn't have done it by ourselves. We are delighted with the support we received from Musgrave -- it is a true retail partnership."

Runner-up Statoil Fuel & Retail was highly commended for its new highway concept store in Minnesund, Norway. The judges felt the site design had been carefully thought through with a separate forecourt area and shop. The panel was particularly impressed with the in-store layout and creation of distinct departments for self-serve coffee, bread and bakery, fresh food, a salad bar, convenience offer and services.

A food offer tailored to the time of day with breakfast, lunch and dinner options was another standout feature cited by the judges. Statoil Fuel & Retail was also praised for its highly engaged people, plus investment in staff training to deliver the new food offer.

"The Insight NACS International Convenience Retailer of the Year Award is going from strength to strength," said Dan Munford, managing director of Insight. "The caliber of the entries in this year's contest was first-class, with innovations at every turn. Judges were put through their paces to deliver a shortlist from an outstanding field of entries and put six stores through to the final: BP Connect, New Zealand; Centra Rochestown, Ireland; Junction 14 Spar Express, Ireland; Tesco Fresh & Easy Express, USA; and Statoil Fuel & Retail, Norway. Centra Rochestown is an inspirational winner of the 2012 award."

Mike Laney, head of convenience for award sponsor Imperial Tobacco, extended congratulations to the winner and added, "Imperial Tobacco is delighted to be associated with the Insight NACS International Convenience Retailer of the Year Award, which showcases the best convenience and forecourt operators around the world. The award provides a valuable opportunity to share and recognize international best practice in convenience retailing."

Centra Rochestown is the fourth retailer to win the Insight NACS International Convenience Retailer of the Year Award. Previous winners include Spar, China (2009); Applegreen, Ireland (2010); and Topaz Cashel, Ireland (2011).

In conjunction with the NACS Show, starting this Sunday, Oct. 7, Insight will kick off its retail store study tours in the United States this weekend, with planned excursions to Fresh & Easy, Walgreens, IN-AND-OUT Burger and 7-Eleven in the Las Vegas area.

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