1. Tell us about your background and how you came to launch Clearhill.
I opened Indiana Land in Dundonald in 1989, Ireland’s first indoor children’s play space. Part of the contract included supplying the leisure vending for the Dundonald Ice Bowl facility. After it sold to Castlereagh Council there was an opportunity to build a company that focused on providing children’s entertainment to a growing market of shopping centres. Castlecourt Shopping Centre had recently opened in Belfast and Clearhill was happy to supply a new brand of fun. They became our first shopping centre customer and have since remained a valued customer to the present day.
2. What is your biggest lesson from being an entrepreneur?
There are several lessons that I have learned over my years in business, but my top three are.
- Sales are the oxygen of business – surviving in any enterprise requires you to learn how to juggle sales, costs, and growth and become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- Always have an edge – learn your customer’s needs quickly, keep close to industry trends, listen and remember ‘customers pay the wages ‘.
- Customers ‘vote’ with their wallets – lower revenue means you are not pleasing them enough and higher means you are hitting the spot… for now!
3. What motivates you?
To succeed in business, you need to be ambitious, committed to improving yourself and have confidence in your ability to deliver for your customers. On my travels, I discovered the Japanese phrase ‘Ganbaru’, which means to be patient and always do your best. This word is something I’ve adopted in my approach to business. Additionally, I believe in the principles of Lean, and continuous improvement. Business is a jungle and only the fittest, most adaptable to change to survive.
4. How have you seen the leisure vending industry change over the last 30 years?
The leisure vending industry was founded in shopping centres and tied to their growth, with landlords maximising rent from mall space. The development of eCommerce and new technologies have presented threats and opportunities in the market. Weaker brands have struggled in this area and reduced footfall in our towns and shopping centres has resulted in more vacant retail space.
COVID and contactless payment technology have accelerated the growth and acceptance of cashless transactions, creating new opportunities to connect and add value and convenience for B2C customers.
5. How has Clearhill adapted to these changes?
Clearhill has embraced the technological developments above. An example of this is within our FunHub brand. Earlier this year the FunHub App was launched, offering customers value packs and rewards when they use our Play Machines following a 2-year rollout of card payment technology on our entire Play Machine estate. The FunHub brand encompasses all our leisure vending activity from single-site operation to mall kiosks and now fully kitted-out FunHub shops.
6. Why should shopping centres and grocery stores partner with Clearhill?
We are proud to be the trusted partners of more than 400 shopping centres and grocery locations throughout the UK & Ireland, demonstrating our excellent service and dedication to innovation. As a family business, we understand the importance of stability and continuity. Delivering excellent service and exceeding customer revenue targets has served us well for over 30 years.
Contact our expert team to partner with us in your mall space.