Oliver Moore: Tell me about the Organic Supermarket Darren.
Darren Grant: I opened the Organic Supermarket on July 14th 2008 in Blackrock Dublin, at the height of the recession. By 2009, we started to push the online store, as we could see that the high street model was dying somewhat. Currently, we have an annual turnover of about E800,000 per year, with 20% of it through our website, and the rest through the store.
OM: What do you stock, and does it differ from the store to the website?
DG: We stock 3000 individual price units in store, and about half that on line. We do all the photography and descriptions ourselves. We'd like to revamp the site too – its won a lot of awards, but, to my mind, it needs an upgrade at this stage.
On line, we can't do chilled or frozen yet, as we deliver overnight. We are going to roadtest same day and evening deliveries soon though. When we do, the whole chilled and frozen areas, including all the dairy range and meats, will come into play.
OM: How do you market what you sell online?
DG: Our focus in marketing online has moved from newsletter and email over to a heavy focus on social media. We have 20,500 followers on facebook and 4000 on twitter. We see a direct turnaround from social media into sales, certainly. We've been shortlisted for the social media awards 2013.
OM: So how do you get the best of of Social Media?
DG: Some of our most innovative social media ideas come from our weekly team meeting.We have used the hive or swarm intelligence of our customers really well. We we at a loss to come up with a competition to run on line, so we decided to run a competition to ask people what our competition should be. The best three were to get a E100, E50 and E50 worth of shopping with us. It went totally viral, over 40,000 people shared it online. There was so little financial outlay for this reach. Plus, we have a year's competition themes now.
We also did a fun one that really went viral – guess the number of beans in the jar. 37,000 people shared that one. This week we're running one on our new slogan. Its about talking and interacting with customers; its not budget driven, its about clever, interacting engaging ideas.
OM: You have started to build an organic supermarket business in Taiwan How did that come about?
DG: Euronews contacted us, as they wanted to do a half hour feature on a microfinance success story. We were turned down by the bank when we started up, but got E25,000 from First Steps microfinance. The programme was translated into 18 languages. This then when into, more or less, every hotel room in the world. And that's where Taiwanese investors saw the Organic Supermarket, and thought it would work in their country.
So they then made contact, flew over to Ireland, and loved our setup. I've been over quite a few times. We're opening a store on 30th June in Taipei city. We start shipping containers of organic produce over to Taiwan towards the end of the month. We plan to open three stores in the next three years, and also to have a strong online retail presence over there.
They are screaming out for western, organic products over there, and there's no recession on there either. Its a big task, translating labels, dealing with a completely different culture and distribution. There are few ex-pats there. It takes six weeks to ship, so its only some products that can go from here to there.
Next post, Darren talks about which products are working, and which aren't the organic sector.