‘The Complete Builders Merchant’ is Wogans’ Slogan

In this issue’s Store Profile, The Hardware Journal visited Drogheda’s Wogan Build Centre to speak with brothers and company directors Derek and Garrett Wogan after their first year in a new location.

Situated just off the M1 exit for north Drogheda, minutes from Drogheda town centre, the Wogan Build Centre officially opened in September 2017. The site was acquired by the family in 2005 when their business began to outgrow their old premises on the Ballymakenny Road. With its high traffic flow and quick, easy access to the M1 motorway, the site was perfectly positioned for a full service builders merchants like Wogans.

Derek and Garrett Wogan are the current directors of the company. They succeeded their parents Gerard and Anita Wogan, who established the Wogan’s Hardware brand 26 years ago in Drogheda. “There’s an undeniable hardware pedigree in the family”, Derek explained, saying that his grandfather owned an all-in-one grocery, furniture, and hardware store in Dunleer where his father Gerard is originally from. According to Derek, “The Wogan name is synonymous with the building materials and furniture supply trade in the area and the family background is strongly rooted in the same industry”, a reputation which Derek and Garret are now proudly upholding.

Leaving the road and entering the driveway of the Wogan Build Centre, it’s difficult not to appreciate the grandeur of the scene. The morning sky is a hazy palette of azure, casting sunlight onto the edge-to-edge ocean of emerald foliage that stretches across the horizon, contrasting against a foreground of Wogans’ proprietary orange, white and grey colour scheme. A proudly-hung pair of ‘Wogan Build Centre’ signs are in place to invite you into the bustling compound, where trucks, vans and cars have already begun filtering in and out of the four-acre site as another busy day gets underway.

Entering the store, you’re greeted with a feast of colourful product displays and attractively constructed aisles that serve as a link from the pristinely-polished showroom and paint section on the left of the store to the ever-popular plumbing section on the right. The building consists of a beautifully airy, modern design where each aisle is numbered and labelled with its contents, allowing for a painless process of product perusal. The remarkably tidy and clutter-free environment makes for a soothing customer experience. A
clever use of space throughout the building is a testament not only to the family’s background in the industry, but also to the extensive floor staff who meticulously maintain the glowing aesthetic both inside and outside the store. The staff are full of pleasantries, exchanging jovial chat with customers and offering advice where needed. Outside, the building materials area is alive with the hums and dings of forklifts and trucks loading up customer orders. With overall staff numbers exceeding 50, there’s no shortage of helping hands in the Wogan Build Centre. As well as this, the store’s opening hours are ample for early risers, opening from 7.30am-5.30pm Monday to Friday and from 8am to 5.30pm on Saturday, closing Sunday.

Garrett pointed out that the design of the store both internally and externally was carefully considered so that trade and retail customers can enter the store from different sides in accordance with their specific requirements and in correspondence to the type of vehicle that they require parking for. “The entrance at the building materials yard is positioned in order for trade customers arriving in vans or trucks to get in and out as quickly as possible and back to the job at hand, which is something that these clients put a lot of value on.”

Atop of the aforementioned showroom and plumbing sections, the staff are distributed amongst several departments, which include, but are not limited to; building materials, plumbing, logistics, insulation & drylining, accounts, and the purchasing department. The company also has four sales reps out on the road at any given time, always looking for new business opportunities.

Wogan’s places a large emphasis on employees having the ability to shape their own departments as they see fit. “Structured meetings with department managers allow us to
review how progress has been and to receive feedback from staff with regard to sales figures, operational efficiencies and errors in order to allow employees to self-assess and give their own take on how the department is performing, affording them with the power to enact change in their specific departments”, said Derek.

It’s clear that the company recognises the importance of handing over responsibility to employees, and both Derek and Garrett feel that the personal and creative development
of their staff is of paramount importance. “The reason that this is important is it allows staff to drive the business forward, it ensures that they’re enjoying their positions, and it allows them to learn new skills and pass these skills on to other staff members. The company prides itself on a team with a high level of expertise and technical knowledge.” Derek said. The rapport between staff and management reflects this communicative approach very well.

During the recession, several internal protocols were put in place to limit risk-factors in the business, like tighter controls on the provision of credit. As well as these protocols, the company implemented the roll-out of a ‘service solution’ mentality, whereby, rather than just selling products, the Wogan Build Centre became a full solutions package. In order to do this, the team began to focus on educating themselves, allowing them to be up-to-date with all of the latest products in the market. This, in turn, allowed them to offer technical advice and expert knowledge to their customers in accompaniment to their products. Garrett said that this process catalysed the creation of strong partnerships with businesses across the country, and further galvanised existing long-term customer relations. At a time when other companies fell at the feet of the economic downturn, the quick thinking of the Wogan brothers gave them a cutting edge, which resonated with their customers and allowed the company to grow during the recession, producing the current incarnation of the Wogan Build Centre that we know today.

The development of the new store took shape with the help of the company’s buying group, Topline. “Topline played a big role in the move to the new site, offering both planning
and operational support through their in-house revamp team. This was crucial in getting key elements of the store in tiptop shape, such as shelving, signage, product selection and
showroom design”, said Derek. Topline also offer feedback in terms of what’s expected to sell well going forward and which promotions to run at certain times throughout the
year. In terms of online promotions, Derek said that the use of Facebook has proven beneficial thus far, with a successful composite decking promotion running recently between a local newspaper and online via social media. “This dual strategy approach allowed us to display the visuals of the product, as well as allowing us to explain the product benefits to the customer. This promotion was a major driver for sales in that category for the period that it ran, and Facebook allows us to generate awareness for our brand on an ongoing basis, which we’re always trying to improve on”, Derek said.

It’s clear that Wogan’s place a lot of value on their local community, which they’re an integral part of. They regularly get involved with charities like the Gary Kelly Cancer Support Centre and local GAA clubs to host barbecues and raffles at the store to raise money and lend support for different local causes. A recent free Halloween treat day and face-painting event for local kids serves as another example of Wogans’ efforts to generate some fun and spirit in the locality; a practice, Derek said, that the company is always looking for new ways to get involved with.

The uniqueness of the Wogan Build Centre is embodied in its multi-faceted business model, which serves the largest possible cross-section of the community. The build centre maintains a feeling of local warmth while catering for large construction projects across a far-reaching customer base. Garrett said that his strategic ambition for the Wogan Build Centre is for it to be “the complete builders merchant for both trade and retail customers at all levels of building projects, “from foundations to painting”, and this is evidential from visiting the store. Wogans’ transport fleet also facilitate the delivery of building materials, with an army of lorries on-the-go, available to distribute to the wider Leinster area and beyond. “The retail side covers the local market very well, and the trade side of the  business has both a local and widespread catchment area”, Derek said.

This Wogan Build Centre site may well be in its infancy, but the business minds behind the brand are well-versed in all things trade. Garrett’s sentiments for the future are inherently positive, and there’s no telling how far the company can go with the belief of the directors and the can-do attitude of the team behind it. “The outlook on the market is strong, and we don’t see that changing in the near future”, Derek said, and judging by the way the business is run, it’s hard to argue with him.