AF Blakemore Spar conference puts partnerships at heart of retail agenda

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Spar: developing partnerships

Spar: developing partnerships

Developing strong partnerships was the key theme at this year’s AF Blakemore Spar conference on 12 June 2012.

Opening the conference, group managing director Peter Blakemore spoke of the success of the Capper/Blakemore integration and detailed how the two separate companies had become one strong business.

“By the end of 2012 there will complete integration, culminating in the harmonisation of Spar POS. By adapting a best of the best approach, we will achieve not just a bigger Blakemore but a better Blakemore,” he said.

Blakemore said the focus on making the business the best convenience store operation in the UK was developing in partnership with customers, suppliers and Spar central office.

Jerry Marwood, managing director of Blakemore Trade Partners, revealed how he had approached the business since joining five months ago. He detailed quick wins and said the longer term business goals were built around delivering what the customer wants.

Blakemore retail managing director, Geoff Hallam, highlighted the change in focus for Blakemore Design and Shopfitting from being a sales arm of the business to offering a complete store refit package with development and support.

“There are major energy savings were to be had, by installing LED lighting and in particular by fitting chiller doors which were no longer barriers,” he said. Hallam offered all retailers the opportunity to have an energy survey (value £400) in their stores, which would be refunded against any future work done by the shopfitting division.

Sales director north, Rob Davis, looked at three initiatives currently affecting retailers: Tesco Price Match, phased promotions and tactical sales. He demonstrated how Tesco Price Match increases perception of value and therefore the opportunity to increase basket spend.

Davis said the company is looking to move towards rolling, weekly promotional changes of one of the three major categories (ambient, off-licence and fresh) rather than the current three-weekly cycle. This would improve the ease of implementation, generate more excitement for customers and a smoother cash flow, he said.

Davis said going forward the sales teams will also be tasked with communicating key events to their customer base regularly and highlighted the recent success of Diamond Jubilee activity in store.

Trading director Mike Boardman outlined specific sales activity to drive sales on produce, which will include a payback on produce for meeting set criteria. He highlighted an increased focus on the Spar brand, a push on non-food plus a rewards package, which will be offered to stores that are promotionally compliant.

Marketing director Richard Harman stressed Spar cannot afford to stand still. He talked about areas which need constant and consistent improvement including value perception, a focus on themed events and the rolling sales plan, which will look at product and pricing more strategically than before.

“We gave all the tools available to assist Spar retailers. It isn’t about necessarily working harder, but more about working smarter in partnership to develop sales,” he said.

Sales director south, Bryan Walters, talked about the importance of the Meridian and Welsh Guild and how it is run.

Managing director of Spar UK, Debbie Robinson, outlined her vision for the business going forward, which defined a collaborative approach for all the UK wholesalers to drive sales and profitability through a structured 10 point plan. She highlighted the strong partnership elements required to make this happen.