At the Spar virtual conference held on 27 May 2021, Spar UK managing director Louise Hoste told invited retailers, store, wholesaler and central office colleagues, trade, supplier and press guests how the symbol group is determined to maintain its lead in the convenience market by investing £125 million in the business over the next 12 months.
Spar has reported sales of +8.5% year-over-year-over-year (YOYOY to 4 weeks ended 28 March 2021); a real indicator of the symbol groups retail sales performance over the last two years. Sales growth has been achieved from bigger baskets (+31%) and changes in the mix and pack sizes.
Despite the challenges of operating through the Covid-19 pandemic, Spar stores were consistently there for customers. Stores also partnered with multiple charities to ensure communities had access to essential items especially delivering to the vulnerable. Sparcontinues to support its national charity partner, Marie Curie, by fundraising and has already distributed over one million pieces of PPE to Marie Curie Nurses.
Hoste said: “Our response to the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the collaborative strength of Spar and the critical role of independent community retailing.
“Our independent retailers, store and wholesale colleagues are our real heroes of the last 12 months. They were consistently there for our customers.
“Our entire network worked extremely hard to navigate the way through the pandemic and as a result of hard work and dedication; we were able to supply stores with exceptional service in order to provide colleagues and consumers with a safe place to work and shop.
“Spar is the most compelling and competitive convenience proposition in the UK. We are part of world’s largest food retail voluntary chain and benefit from best practice sharing. Our brand is distinctive. By using data, we have a modern approach to delivering profitable store formats and propositions. Our marketing and digital activity is driving consumer consideration, footfall and increasing basket spend. Our own label range, Spar Brand, delivers growth. It is worth over £350m annually and is the 20th biggest selling food brand in the UK.
“It is encouraging to see how consumers continue to use our stores today. We see our future in local as consumers choose to shop locally in stores owned by independent retailers. Our heritage, both nationally and internationally, is rooted in the local communities we serve.
“Our core strength is in our store locations, our independence and the entrepreneurial spirit of our retailers.
“Last year was a year which saw accelerated growth as a result of the dedication and focus of our colleagues. Therefore we are going to support them by investing £125 million in our business in the year ahead.
“We will invest £100 million in stores and we will invest £25 million in improving our supply chain and IT capability – everything from depots to vans and electric bikes for home delivery. The potential is huge,” she said. “Collectively we adapted and it has made us better and stronger.”
Expansion continued throughout the UK with over 300 new Spar stores and refits offering an excellent customer proposition.
A great supply chain was maintained throughout the pandemic as Spar and all five wholesalers worked collaboratively with suppliers across all functions to supply stores with exceptional availability and as a result the symbol group stayed on top of sales growth. Unique changes in ranges and pack sizes were made to accommodate customer needs.
During the year a lot of work has been done on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Spar saved 13 million own label coloured plastic caps from soft drinks bottles going to landfill. The group also introduced narrow necks on drinking bottles saving 32 tonnes of virgin plastic, rolled out Too Good To Go app to stores, joined The Plastic Pact and signed up to the BRC Climate Action Roadmap.
Acceleration in an online proposition whether through individual retailer activity or with third parties has brought a new customer base to stores.
Spar is launching a number of data driven mission-focused developments with new formats and propositions starting with the major redevelopment at Carnon Downs in Cornwall. The 2,600sq ft store is the first in the country to unveil the new Spar UK store design concept.
The state-of-the-art next generation store will include a strong focus on provenance, with a wide range of local Cornish products across many categories, along with an up-front butchery counter branded in the Cornish language and emphasis on the store’s reputation for fresh and chilled produce.
A décor of dark grey fixtures and wood effect tiles feature strongly among the warm colours, materials and finishes throughout the store, along with messages conveying support for local suppliers and producers, with products identified by Cornish flag stickers.
There will be a refill station section where customers can bring their own containers and buy loose products such as nuts, cereals, pulses, rice and flour. Local wines, craft beers and an artisan bakery will also feature, and the layout will take into account the proposed High Fat Sugar Salt (HFSS) legislation.
Hoste added: “This is our seventh year of continuous growth and a strong platform to demonstrate how our strategy delivers sustainable growth.
“Spar is the leading convenience symbol group in the UK and the only proposition for independent retailers looking for a profitable future.
“Spar has shown great resilience with developments in retail, own label and across our supply chain. We have proven how adaptable we are. We look to benefit from our scale, whilst adding value to the local communities we serve. The future in convenience is with Spar.”