Belfast Telegraph

Stephen Kelly: Managing Director of Spirit Marketing Group

Spirited approach to marketing

How’s business?

Very good. Spirit provide integrated marketing solutions to shopping centres across the UK and Ireland, and despite challenging conditions in the retail sector, across our accounts we’re bucking the trend and increasing footfall.

Marketing is even more important to remain competitive and front of mind with shoppers.

Our existing clients are seeing the proof of this and we are winning new business as well as being reappointed to accounts such as Foyleside and Whitewater Shopping Centres.

Any exciting projects in the pipeline?

We’re constantly working on new ways of introducing innovative marketing techniques into the retail sector in order to maintain our lead position in providing integrated solutions.

We’ve recently developed a bespoke digital marketing platform which will begin to roll out this year.

This is an innovative product which has never been seen before and all the technology has been developed here in Northern Ireland.

What are the long-term prospects for your company?

Our long term prospects are excellent. Despite all this negativity getting everyone down, we’re continuing to win accounts, increase turnover and improve yields and profitability. We have both retained and new contracts in place for the next few years and have plans for expansion in new markets.

In January, we expanded internationally through the joint purchase of a US agency, The James Group which is one of Manhattan’s top creative branding and advertising agencies.

This was an excellent opportunity to buy into a successful company with an established network of clients and experienced staff which will strengthen our position.

What are the biggest challenges facing your organisation?

Managing growth. With the retail and leisure market suffering stress, an increasing number of businesses are looking at companies like Spirit which have proved successful in difficult environments so we are focused on expanding our resources to meet this demand. We’ve just restructured our Dublin operation and now have a critical mass of senior managers in place throughout the company. Through expansion, we expect to continue recruiting in the near future.

Could the Government help you to do business better?

Everyone is frustrated by the speed in which Government goes about its business.

The private sector is experienced in making things happen successfully and quickly and I believe our Assembly should complement this by creating an environment in which things get done in a more dynamic fashion.

It’s a good time for our new Executive to look at ways of creating the conditions for sustained economic growth, but time is pressing and things need to happen sooner rather than later.

Why would someone work for you?

We have great conditions of employment, but more importantly, we’ve a fast moving and interesting environment in which people have a fair degree of responsibility to make their own success for their clients and themselves.

Your views on the economy, please

There is a fair degree of negativity out there, but people are still shopping.

Our shopper research shows that people are being more careful with how they spend with convenience, choice and good customer service being important factors. Recent interest rates and VAT cuts have put money back into the hands of shoppers and our clients in the retail sector are well suited to tap into the current demand for value and convenience and this combined with significant effort in marketing the centres is proving successful for us, agents and owners.

The business climate — good or bad?

It’s interesting having clients across the UK, Ireland and now the US.

You experience so many different approaches to business. We’re continuing to win new business across the UK and Ireland, not just in retail, but also in leisure and hospitality.

What ambitions do you have on a personal level?

Just the usual — retired by 50, with the children well educated and in good jobs with lots of time to play golf in the sun before relaxing with a very cold beer or two!

What do you get up to in your spare time?

I enjoy current affairs and sport, particularly playing golf in many of the North West’s great golf courses and I’m a passionate follower of Derry City Football Club.

Belfast Telegraph