Anne Bruce
BWG plans to put almost E200m into expanding Spar in the Irish Republic over the next three years, bringing the portfolio up to around 500 stores.
The move was announced this week following a strategic review in the wake of the BWG management buyout financed by private equity company Electra last year.
Leo Crawford, CEO of BWG, said Spar Ireland retail sales were currently E763m a year. The target was to raise that to more than a billion euros by 2006 through increased retail space and greater sales per square foot.
Thirty new stores are already signed up for 2003, and BWG will open 100 by mid 2006.
Crawford said 60% of those stores would be run by existing Spar members who were being encouraged to expand their individual portfolios.
Spar has three fascias in the Republic ­ Spar, with the bulk of stores; Spar Express, with 41 stores; and Eurospar with 14 stores, due to rise to 40 by 2006.
Crawford said Spar would also focus on satisfying consumer demand for "more and more convenience", looking at areas such as convenience food for the health conscious, an extended hot food offer for the evening, ethnic ranges and organic foods.
Cash point machines will also be rolled out across the network and are already in 100 sites. Additional service innovations are in the pipeline.
Own label was also set for development. Just 3-4% of Spar's range in Ireland is private label, said Crawford, and the plan was to boost this in line with multiples which carry around 25% own label lines.
Crawford said the Electra-backed strategy was to invest in and expand key symbol brands. Its strong brands include Spar in the Republic of Ireland and the South West of England where its subsidiary Appleby Westward operates. Crewe-based Bargain Booze is also regarded as a leading brand.
The wholesale businesses of Daunts, Saxtons and Symonds had been divested as they relied too heavily on tobacco, bringing in low margins, he added.
BWG's J&J Haslett business, which operated Mace and Holmes cash and carry in Northern Ireland, was set to be acquired by Hendersons, which already operates Spar, Vivo and VG there (The Grocer, May 17, page 8).
Crawford said a due diligence process was expected to complete in July.
BWG also revealed it would launch a 4,000-5,000 sq ft Spar flagship store this autumn in a major Irish city, in partnership with Spar International.

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