“Fifty years is a long time,” says Seamus McFadden, owner of McFadden’s Specialist Newsagent in Strabane. “What an experience. It is very rare that you have the same owners for so long.
Eamus’ father, James, opened McFadden’s in 1971, after running one of Kelly’s former stores, which later became Stewarts and Crazy Prizes.
After training as a chef at the catering school, Seamus joined his father’s business in 1980 and McFadden’s was redeveloped with new construction the following year.
“You didn’t line up at the time, it was completely different,” Seamus explains. “You were just an independent. In the early 1980s we were supplied by the Irish Agricultural Wholesale Society just outside of Derry City and other smaller independent wholesalers. But all of this has evolved and changed.
McFadden’s partnership with S&W Wholesale dates back to the demise of a former supplier after encountering supply issues.
“S&W came in like a breath of fresh air and suited my model,” he says. “They don’t interfere with my established magazine business and they help me a lot. I am very happy to have left with them then and together we have built our relationship to what it is today.
“Their service and support is fantastic. The BDM calls regularly and each time offers great advice to help make the store better for my customers. The S&W team seem to care about the success of my store and are very active in making it run successfully.
Originally adopting today’s symbol of S&W, McFadden’s switched to its Nearby fascia this year and Seamus was impressed with the wholesaler who sent two reps who collectively spent five full working days helping with the migration. to the new symbol.
“S&W has spent days polishing the store, which I’m grateful for, because sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to see the obvious things that need to be done,” he says. Updates included new shelves and the addition of revenue generators to the range, such as a new increased section for hanging bags and marked bays priced at £ 1.
“I was on-face with count lines like a single Mars Bar or Crunchie, but underside where the growth was,” says Seamus. “They walked in, did this job, placed the order and I can see they were right.”
A NICHE IN THE TITLES OF SPECIALIST
A specialty newsagent, who had previously received accolades such as CTN of the Year, says Seamus, while the industry is in decline, a market still exists for special interest magazines.
For newsagents, traditionally 80% of sales come from 20% of titles in stock. “Our small market is in that 20%, so I’m very happy to keep our six-meter magazine bay,” he says. “It’s long enough, and we don’t see it that much now.
“Here in the northwest, Omagh would be the main town, but people come here and say they can’t get what they are looking for elsewhere if it does. National Geographic, a Bloomberg special elections Where Archeology Ireland.
“With Eason’s removal from Foyleside to Derry and even the fact that we’re right at the border, and Republic magazines have VAT, we’re getting a bit of trade from all of these neighboring areas.”
More recently, Seamus introduced another point of difference in its store with a one-meter bay dedicated to Games Workshop. After shutting down its own stand-alone shops, the Nottingham-based wargame and scale model supplier refocused on a presence in newsagents.
“My interest in this came from selling what you call part-time magazines and a magazine called White dwarf, “he says.” It’s a slow builder, just something different. “
Along with its full line of specialty titles and templates, another strength of the store is its extensive display of greeting cards and gift bags.
“I have an entrance area with three yards of greeting cards,” Seamus explains. “I would do well on cards, especially during Covid, as card stores were forced to close. Greeting cards and gift bags would be another highlight for us.
General grocery shopping is strong, especially baked goods, with vendors such as Gallagher’s Bakehouse and Highland Bakery just across the border in Donegal and Northern Ireland producers Craig Foods and Cottage Kitchen.
Laurence Kee, owner of Galgorm-based Cottage Kitchen, is an old friend of Seamus’ from their days together in catering college.
Cooked meals are produced for the shop by a local butcher, while a local fishmonger buys salmon and trout from Killybegs for the refrigerated counter.
McFadden’s take-out offering includes items such as hams, sausage rolls, and bacon and cheese turnovers, all freshly made in the morning next to the store’s cool coffee machine.
50 YEARS OF TRADE
A further redevelopment in 1999 expanded the store to approximately 1,600 square feet with two supervised checkouts. As was the case with many stores during the pandemic, Seamus struggled with staff availability but now has two full-time and seven part-time employees.
Changing demand during the pandemic also changed McFadden’s hours of operation. Previously 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., later attracting the trade of revelers picking up cards and chocolate or locals crowding into a local bingo hall, the lockdown ended the trade and the store now closes at 9 p.m.
“I discovered that you don’t have to be here before 11:00 pm, it is inefficient in terms of manpower and energy,” says Seamus. “I don’t think it came back. The Covid has changed it and people’s habits have changed with it. They all seem to be Netflix in the house now.
“The High Street has changed so much since we started. Irony is back in the day when we had to live with the troubles, there was never a vacant store. Now you go to every town and there are shutters closed everywhere.
For Seamus, the worst experience of 50 years was not the tumultuous time of the Troubles, but in 1987 when the Morne River overflowed and flooded the store with 2.5 feet of water.
“It was October, when we had Christmas stock,” Seamus says. “I remember the police rescuing people from the windows upstairs and I couldn’t get to the store until the water had calmed down and then going in and looking at the mess . It was by far the worst experience I have had.
A highlight, meanwhile, of the past 50 years has been Seamus’ cousin Brian McFadden, who made an impromptu visit to the store while his band Westlife was at the height of their fame, causing quite a stir. “He’s always been here and appeared on a day when he was number one on the charts,” says Seamus. “It was amazing.”
Seamus fully appreciates the relationship with S&W and the service provided by the team. “They understand me as well as my store,” he says. “I can’t fault their expertise.
“I also like the new Nearby brand image, as do my customers. The external Nearby brand has really enhanced the look of the store and customers have told me about how beautiful it is.
“For me, it was obvious to adopt their new brand Nearby. I loved the name right away, because we’re always close to our customers when they need us, and I loved the graphics internally and externally.
“It has done wonders for my store. I look forward to what the future holds for my store and the local community.