Spar stores could benefit from the current challenging economic climate, said Spar UK MD Jerry Marwood.

Marwood believes shoppers looking to tighten their belts may decide to eat out less. As spending shifted towards cheaper treats such as ready meals or ingredients, Spar was well placed to benefit, he said. Key to current strategy is a major improvement of its food-to-go offer.

"The new economic surroundings give us fresh challenges and opportunities," he told the Spar Retail Show 2008. "We have a massive advantage over our competitors by having a brand with a heritage that in our market is unrivalled."

Spar could also offer competitive pricing to the major multiples for shoppers looking for value and promotions in c-stores, Marwood said.

He added that Spar was still growing and he hoped new stores would open to add to its 2,579-strong estate. The accounts to 28 April 2007 showed sales up from £156m to £160m. Turnover as principal (UK sales of the six regional distribution companies who are members of Spar and wholesale, retail, and supplier contributions to advertising and overheads) increased from £50m to £53m. "We have sales growth like-for-like. Our biggest challenge is recruiting new retailers that we want to keep."

Spar this month launched a year-long advertising campaign across TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. The £3.7m campaign is the biggest in the history of the symbol group.

It also announced that Spar raised more than £1m for the NSPCC last year as part of its 50th anniversary.