MD Louise Hoste said the Kilwaughter site was an example of how the new format works
The business plans to roll out new formats across its entire estate during 2020
Retail sales at Spar UK increased in 2019 thanks to larger baskets and bigger stores as the group introduced a new format focusing on fresh produce and food to go.
The convenience operator made up of independent retailers grew retail sales per store by 2.6% last year, according to the annual report of Spar International.
Growth came from larger-than-average store sizes and a 2.8% rise in the average weekly basket spend, excluding fuel and services, said UK MD Louise Hoste. Spar UK total retail sales space also grew by 1.7% during 2019 to more than four million sq ft. Wholesale sales per store also increased, by 2.6%.
Hoste added the business planned to roll out new formats across the entire estate during 2020, based on the success of the trial model store developments conducted in 2019 as part of a strategic review of the Spar brand.
The new format in stores such as Glasgow Havannah Street and Kilwaughter in Antrim focused on fresh ranges and own label food-to-go services, including Costa Coffee, F’real Milkshakes, Skwishee Frozen Drinks and Dots Donuts.
“Our aim is to maximise independent retailer profits and Spar Kilwaughter is an example of how this works in terms of fresh and modernisation,” said Hoste.
“To meet the needs of convenience customers of the future, we started the stream of work in early 2019 to determine the proposition for each of our store formats.”
Four new flagship store designs opened in 2019, and 14 new stores have been signed off to open during 2020.
The format of each new store is tailored to the local customer mission, based on research of what shoppers in the area want.
“By moving from formats to customer proposition, it will mean Spar has the agility to maximise the commercial offer with scale and speed to drive growth,” Hoste added. “The proposition will help maintain and attract independent retailers to the business by driving sales growth.”
Despite the growth in the store estate, revenues in the UK were broadly flat year on year at €3.3bn (£3bn) as the total number of shops in the symbol group declined as a result of the merger between petrol forecourt giants MFG and MRH. The deal lead to the rebranding of 110 Spar stores during the course of 2018 and 2019.
Spar UK had 2,520 stores in 2019, compared with 2,598 in the previous year.
Spar International reported sales of €37.1bn for the year ending 31 December 2019, representing a 4.4% increase in revenue on a constant currency basis. The group operates 13,320 branded stores across 48 markets worldwide in four continents.
Western European revenues jumped 3.6% to €22.9bn in the year.
Spar International CEO Tobias Wasmuht said the group had delivered “exceptional results” in the face of intensified international competition.
“A common trend across many of our markets in 2019 was the outperformance of the Spar brand versus key local and global competitors,” he said. “The strength of our international network and growth in our distribution and supply chain operations have delivered significant competitive advantages for our stores and retailers, allowing agility and a speed of response to changing consumer and market trends.”
He added the first four months of 2020 had shown the strength of the Spar group in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.
“From our unique vantage point as a global retailer, we had the ability to track the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the retail sector from east to west, and to share Spar’s best practice approach to ensuring the safety of colleagues and customers around the world. The crisis has shown the true strength of the Spar network.
“The strong performance of neighbourhood retailing during the outbreak and the importance our customers place in proximity and local retailing will continue to strengthen, as will our continued rollout of online retail in the new ‘low-touch’ economy. Economic impact, consumer confidence and the negative impact on household incomes will see consumer spend shifting towards three key areas of health, sanitation and value, with the Spar brand very well-positioned to respond.”