Spar International’s priority for 2001 is to set up an intranet to link Spar members across the globe, said group md Gordon Campbell at a Spar retail conference in Harrogate. “The internet will fundamentally change the way we do business over the next five years,” he said. “We will certainly be using trading exchanges to purchase goods.” Initially, the intranet will be a more efficient means of communication between International Spar members. Then the next step could involve building in transactional capabilities enabling, for example, Spar Finland to place an order for International Spar brand cornflakes online. He said b2c e-commerce had “really taken off” in Sweden and South Africa, which both operate a successful nationwide home shopping service. Spar Direct in Sweden involved a huge capital investment, said Campbell, but its day-to-day operations are now making a profit. There are plans to double the number of International Spar brands to 90 and increase the number of products to raise the group’s international buying power. Spar trades in 31 countries, said Campbell. While not all the products are suitable for all of these markets, crucially, Spar is competing with the multiples with comparable volumes. “This gives us huge leverage with suppliers.” New own label products will include a greater range of non-food items and an expanded range of chilled and frozen ready meals. The International Spar brand is growing all the time, he added, with the international unit playing a major part in this through the development of new store formats. The flagship Austrian Eurospar, opened last month in Perg, near Linz, was a state of the art store, he said. {{NEWS }}