Spar MD praises the group’s caring, passionate retailers but warns that competition is fierce
SPAR has the best retailers in the UK and on its good days a Spar store is better than any of the multiple grocers’ c-stores, the symbol group’s managing director Debbie Robinson told an audience of the group’s independent retailers at the Spar Scotland Tradeshow last month.
But she and Spar and CJ Lang marketing colleagues Philippe Rondepierre and Gerry Welsh also told retailers that current trading conditions were hugely competitive and that compliance with partnering brand companies’ promotional activities was vital to ensure continuing commercial support.
The retailers also heard that the organisation was targeting significant improvements in stores’ provision of fresh food, their appeal to young shoppers and their exploitation of seasonal opportunities.
The Tradeshow, held at the Inchyra Hotel in central Scotland, also included an exhibition attended by many of the biggest brands in c-store retailing and featuring a host of on-the-day deals.
The MD and her marketing colleagues made a series of in-depth presentations at the event that provided analysis of the current market, details of consumer research studies, updates on shop format developments, space planning, TV advertising, social media platform development, own-label ranges, marketing activity and more.
Head of marketing Philippe Rondepierre stressed that the most important shopping mission in convenience retailing was now top-up.
To some consumers Spar was thought of predominantly as a place to buy newspapers and daily essentials like bread and milk.
“We absolutely need to capture the shopper who tops up two to three times a week and we can only do so with fresh food,” he said. “Without fresh food you’re just not relevant.”
Key parts of the Spar strategic plan therefore would cover ongoing value, complete with promotions and PMPs but also with Fresh for Less offers on fresh food.
Meal solutions also form a critical part of the strategy and will play a big part in TV advertising and marketing activity.
He also said there was a multi-million pound opportunity for Spar retailers to increase sales if they could improve performance at seasonal events including Christmas and traditional events such as Mother’s Day but also at smaller events like Pancake Day or Chinese New Year.
Such events typically occur at tough times of the trading year and so can be especially helpful to retailers.
Robinson said the current retailing market was remarkable and highlighted turmoil in superstores, the rise of discounters and new entrants in convenience retailing but she said Spar had major strengths.
“I can’t stress enough that we have the best retailers in the country,” she said.
“A Spar store at its best wipes the floor with a Tesco Express, a Sainsbury’s Local or a Marks & Spencer Simply Food.
“They don’t have the same passion, the same care or the same love that our retailers have.
“Waitrose might talk about having local products. They don’t support local like we do, employing local people, having relationships with local producers and stocking their products in our Spar stores.”