While the marketplace remains intensely competitive, SPAR continues to see growth with like-for-like sales up on the previous year, keeping up to speed with modern consumers’ needs with fresh food-to-go and new strategies.
Sales director Colin talks to IF&CR about the launch of SPAR’s most recent sales strategy, and how they continue to stay ahead of the game.
“The convenience market is hyper dynamic and evolves as and when consumer tastes and behaviours change. As such, and to ensure that we remain at the forefront of our industry, we continuously review and benchmark our retail operations to remain at the cutting edge.
“Through substantive research, we have been able to form retail concepts and ensure that we stay ahead of the curve when it comes to food and service offerings, customer service and experience, store design and layouts, the use of technology and supply chain efficiencies.”
According to Colin, a strong culture of collaboration among SPAR retailers and a willingness to test and try new concepts is why SPAR retailers are convenience market leaders. With the food-to-go market predicted to bring in £23.5bn by 2022 across the UK, Irish convenience and forecourt retailers are seizing more opportunities to revamp their foodservice and bring food-to-go to the core.
“SPAR has always embraced the changing needs of our customers as an opportunity to pioneer new concepts that differentiate us from our competitors. We pioneered the concession model in grocery retailing and this approach, along with our ongoing investment and exclusive strategic partnerships in food and service offerings across key categories such as premium coffee, has been a key differentiator for us at home and abroad.
“Consumer trends have evolved and it is important now to be able to provide a balanced in-store food offering with a range of healthy eating and food-to-go options. To capitalise on this opportunity we have developed a number of new concession offerings such as the Pitta Project and 6th Avenue Street Food, all which cater to different customer preferences through a range of high-quality food offerings.
“We expect to see continued growth across the Foodservice category as customers seek out a variety of on-the-go and healthy eating options. Like others, we’ve also identified an upward trend in terms of demand for fresh produce be it meat, fish, dairy or bakery. To that end, our design response is to maximise the opportunity per store profile and capitalise on the growing market for fresh offerings.
“We’ve also found that customers are increasingly motivated by supporting local food suppliers as a means of supporting local jobs and the wider economy. Equally, the origin of the food we source is something that customers, retailers and indeed, we at BWG Foods, are very passionate about. Through BWG Foods, retailers have access to a huge variety of high quality Irish products, some of them exclusive, and this allows us to cater to this growing demand.
“This focus on foodservice is a key differentiator between our retail service and that of our peers and it is something that our retailers are very excited about leveraging to their advantage. To ensure we remain ahead of the curve in this regard, we are always improving on our core range and enhancing our supplementary range and we undertake scheduled performance and range reviews for all our fresh food offers, covering key factors such as food trends, seasonality, health and profitability.”
As well as investing heavily in their foodservice, the rollout of a three year strategy is currently underway, with the aim to grow the SPAR footprint and market share across Ireland following a €20m investment from BWG Foods.
“As part of this hugely exciting strategy, Better Together, our independent retailers have the opportunity to radically transform their businesses with truly pioneering store designs and retail innovations across our new designated store profiles that offer bespoke and tailored customer experiences.
“This includes placing a greater emphasis on the art of convenience retailing by tailoring store offerings in real-time to different periods of the day, delivering consumer facing technology solutions to cater for customers’ fast paced on-the-go needs, and providing a heightened focus on convenient but high quality foodservice offerings.
“In developing our new strategy, we analysed how we could increase footfall and spend, and ultimately improve retailer performance. While grocery remains a core staple of all of our convenience stores, we’re more focussed than ever on high-growth categories and specific categories that suit our new SPAR profiles.
“Our new strategy focuses heavily on our ongoing ambition to lead on food innovation, a people plan focusing on recruitment and on-going staff training and staff retention, and in-store carbon reduction initiatives.”
However, Colin says that with new initiatives and updated technology they will continue to support retailers and help with the opportunities and challenges they face.
“In order to support retailers, SPAR has recently launched a dedicated recruitment platform and upgraded our state-of-the-art e-learning platform, which, along with other training initiatives, aims to equip employees with skills and qualifications that will allow them to pursue rewarding and lifelong careers in retail.
“Another challenge facing retailers is the increasing cost of doing business. General business costs such as labour, general overheads and insurance continue to add pressure to what is an already highly competitive retailing landscape. In order to combat rising operational costs, SPAR is to the forefront of new retail technologies aimed at creating operational efficiencies that minimise costs and maximise resources.
“Some new initiatives include the use of electronic sels, otherwise known as digital price tags, which allow for remote and real-time product pricing. This is a very efficient solution that saves significant time for staff while also ensuring that pricing always remains accurate. We’ve also developed improved technology in our ordering mechanisms to improve overall efficiencies on stock replenishment.”
According to Colin, the key to creating a sustainable business in this industry lies in the vision behind the SPAR brand – all you need, when you need it, under the Tree at SPAR.
“The retail industry has to contend with the ever changing nature of the sector in line with consumer behaviours and is highly susceptible to changes in the economy and society. So, no matter how you may plan for the short-term or long-term success of your business, you can never be certain of what lies ahead.
“Therefore, understanding the needs and wants of customers, across all demographics and on any given day is vital to maintaining a sustainable business.”