Thinking big, bigger and even bigger

Rooney’s Homevalue in Kells, has grown remarkably in just seven years. How did they do it? HAI gets the answers from owner Brendan Rooney.

Imagine, a business growing so fast, it’s had four premises and three expansions since opening in 2012; mushrooming from 16,000 sq. ft. to 55,000 sq. ft. in the past three years
alone! The pace of change and achievement is astonishing at Rooney’s Homevalue, Kells.
For owner Brendan Rooney, a drive for constant development is the vital factor. “More than most, we know that to be successful we need to continually invest in our business if we are to maintain a strong, sustainable growth trajectory.”

Going large gets results

“Having begun in 2012 as a relatively modest Agri Store, we immediately pursued our ambition to improve and grow”, explains Brendan. “In 2014, we joined United Hardware seeking more competitive pricing and a retail brand that would enhance consumer  recognition. After just a year, on the back of a strong increase in performance, we made the brave decision to open a new 2,000 sq. ft. retail store, expanding beyond our agri offering.”

Sales were so healthy that the very next year, 2016, Rooney’s Homevalue broke ground on a 16,000 sq. ft. custom-built facility, with approx. 7,000 sq. ft. of retail space.

“It was a watershed moment that pushed the business into new areas of opportunity and established us as a key supplier to Trade, DIY and Agri customers across the region,” Brendan recalls.

“But no sooner had we settled into our new home, than we’d outgrown it. In 2018 we acquired a new site. Determined to stay within our local community, we were keen to find a premises in or close to the centre of Kells, as this would increase customer traffic. We were lucky to secure a great location in town, rather than a business park on the outskirts.”

“Our latest site is a five-minute drive from our old store, making a convenient transition for customers. A town location also strengthens awareness; critical, given how competitive our market is.”

Over nine months, the premises were renovated to the highest industry standards. April 2019 marked the official opening of the 55,000 sq. ft superstore, which now also stocks electrical goods. To open new customer channels, Rooney’s Homevalue partnered with Euronics, Ireland’s largest independent electrical retailer.

Today, Rooney’s Homevalue spans 19,000 sq. ft of retail space, along with a two-acre yard and parking for 100 cars. Departments include Trade, Workwear, Paint, Homeware and Gifts, Electronics, showrooms featuring doors, floors and bathrooms, and Agri, encompassing Equestrian and Pet Care.

But the Rooneys aren’t finished upscaling yet. “We’re developing an additional 3,000 sq. ft of retail space, along with a new garden centre and café, due to open in Spring 2020.”

The people behind the success

The dynamic driving forces in this story are Brendan Rooney, his wife Cathleen, daughter Anne-Marie and Store Manager Miceál Reilly. With Miceál, Brendan manages the heavy building segment of the business.

“As a builder by trade, I came to the Hardware sector with an in-depth knowledge about the needs of the building industry. This has been fundamental to the success of the
merchanting aspect.”

While Cathleen and Anne-Marie bring significant retail management experience to that side of operations. Together they lead a highly motivated team of 30, some of whom have been with Rooney’s Homevalue since the outset. Staff with specialist expertise are dedicated to key areas; a real point of difference.

Continual upskilling keeps knowledge levels current. “We’re very passionate about training and development and have embraced the new online training portal from United Hardware. Practical and comprehensive, The Learning Centre is key to ensuring we deliver best-in-class retailing standards,” Brendan notes.

Staff also regularly attend supplier and United Hardware training days to maintain unrivalled know-how when it comes to advising customers and showcasing products.

United we buy, and sell

Education is one of many advantages of United Hardware membership. However, the Rooneys’ initially joined to secure competitive pricing and better supplier terms.

“We’ve seen first-hand how the buying team in United Hardware successfully leverages the collective buying power of over 150 independent stores to secure highly competitive pricing that allows us to compete aggressively,” says Brendan.

But affiliation runs far deeper than buying. United Hardware has played a central role in supporting development ambitions, most recently the new store fitout. The group’s Regional Manager is a reliable source of support, advising on improvements that will set Rooney’s Homevalue apart.

The business also benefits from United Hardware’s major investment in its Homevalue brand through multiple marketing channels, including advertising, video-on-demand, social media, promotions and more.

With United Hardware, store standards audits are routine; invaluable for providing the high-level feedback needed to attain best-in-class quality and service. Audits also offer added incentive to excel. The result: Rooney’s Homevalue won United in Excellence Store of The Year 2019.

Not just surviving, thriving

It’s tough out there, but for Brendan, continual investment in the business and its people has always been the answer, ensuring resilience in a competitive sector and an unpredictable climate.

“Successful retail businesses are those that recognise changing trends and demographics and adapt to exploit market opportunities. We’ve never been afraid to challenge and improve our business. This has been critical to our success.”

The customer experience is a major focus, as store standards and service are key points of differentiation. This will be a crucial battleground for attracting and retaining customers.

To enhance customer connection and drive sales, Rooney’s Homevalue is tapping into the power of social media and online marketing; forging a strong presence across Instagram and Facebook, with regular updates on promotions, news and products. Having recently launched a brand-new website, it is exciting times ahead in the online space for the store.

“We know that more and more of our customers are using online tools to research products, pricing and promotions. So, we’re determined to make it easier by being active and engaging. We must embrace social media and maintain our web presence to stay competitive.”

A positive outlook

Brendan Rooney has a confident, yet pragmatic view of the years ahead. He believes prospects are good for the retail, merchanting and construction sectors despite uncertain

“The reality is; our industry is extremely competitive and the growing presence of international groups in Ireland poses an increasing threat to independent retailers. External factors such as Brexit will also add extra pressure.”

But he feels upbeat following the Government announcement of a €2 billion capital funding programme aimed at increasing housebuilding nationwide, including the construction of 23,000 social housing units by 2021.

“So, while challenges will remain, there are opportunities for businesses in our sector to grow and flourish over the coming years. This is where we will focus our efforts.”

Part of the community

Rooney’s Homevalue takes pride in its role at the heart of the community; being convenient and actively involved in giving back. The in-town location says it all. Firmly believing that businesses have a responsibility to local communities, they support schools, sports groups, charities and local volunteer groups in the Kells area through many diverse initiatives.