Coronavirus put an end to trade shows, store visits and face-to-face meetings that symbols usually use to recruit new members. But many have still managed to win new business. Here’s how

Recruiting retailers is a competitive game. And one that generally plays out best in a face-to-face environment.

But coronavirus put an end to all that. No longer could the big symbol and franchise groups rely on trade shows, store visits and face-to-face meetings to tempt new members. Suddenly, operators had to adapt their recruitment plans to an online world.

Replacing the power of annual trade shows, which typically attract thousands of visitors, was no mean feat. Yet nine of the leading 14 fascias managed to hold onto or expand their numbers last year.

The most impressive figures came in from Booker’s Premier and Parfetts Go Local – both of which grew store numbers by 150 – while Londis was also up by more than 100 stores. Meanwhile, Nisa signed up 73 more stores in 2020 than it did the previous year despite the challenges created by the pandemic.

So how have the major fascias adapted their recruitment efforts during this time? To what extent have they managed to replicate the face-to-face experience? And what new elements have they used to tempt prospective members?

With efforts shifting towards online, website developments were a natural focus of recruitment strategies. Spar created new recruitment content for its website. The updated section was designed to clearly set out the benefits of its offer, and to put interested retailers in contact with key individuals who could chat about the advantages of membership more in depth.

That approach seems to have hit the mark. Since launching in June last year, the site has attracted more than 20,000 unique visitors.

Spar wholesalers, including CJ Lang in Scotland, acted similarly by constantly updating their sites with retailer success stories in their regions.

“We really value meeting all potential new retailers in person,” says Ian Taylor, Spar UK retail director. “However, during the pandemic we have used a variety of engagement communication methods and we know we have gone above and beyond to provide constant communication and help throughout.”

In the process Spar has racked up 250 refits and new store openings over the past 18 months, and has a “steady stream” of independent retailers ready to join in 2021, Taylor adds.

A website revamp was also the starting point for Nisa. Its new site,, aimed to showcase everything it had to offer in one easy location. That resulted in a massive 230% increase in enquiries from prospective retailers year on year to the end of October.

It also devised a virtual recruitment and induction process, hosting meetings on Teams and Zoom, and creating virtual store tours, which it used to enrol convenience operators such as Tout’s, Highland Retail and Ascona Group. The recruitment of high profile and fast growing retailers such as these was “a real testament to the strength of the proposition and how well the teams have adapted”, says sales director Steve Leach.

“Over the course of the past year, in difficult circumstances, the recruitment team here at Nisa has evolved magnificently to a virtual recruitment model which has been fruitful and very supportive to prospective Nisa partners,” Leach adds. “We’ve embraced the digital platforms available to us and have ramped up our social media activity to ensure we’re very visible and clear on why Nisa is the partner of choice for independent retailers and wholesalers.”

It was clearly enough to persuade retailer Tarsem Singh, who looked into Nisa membership in early November. Having bought a former Spar store in Staffordshire, he contacted the symbol group to talk about moving over. Within days, he had completed virtual meetings with the area retail development manager and store development team to discuss plans.

The store opened five weeks later, trading as Nisa Local in Uttoxeter. “We now have a really good range of fresh and grocery lines, and our customers are really happy with it,” says Singh.


Costcutter set to join the Bestway fascia lineup

Costcutter shopper fruit and veg

Source: Costcutter

This biggest story in the convenience sector right now is Bestway’s capture of Costcutter just before Christmas.

The deal, for an as yet undisclosed fee, is currently subject to approval by the Financial Conduct Authority and expected to complete in the next couple of months.

Unlike the Co-op acquisition of Nisa in 2019, this deal is not down to Costcutter retailers to vote on. As soon as the FCA gives the go-ahead, it’s a done deal – with Bestway taking Costcutter off the hands of its current owner Bibby Line Group.

Still, keeping retailers sweet will remain important. And the big sell from Bestway has already started, with the wholesaler kicking off a series of virtual roadshows highlighting the benefits for Costcutter retailers.

The key element of the deal, as far as most retailers are concerned,  is that Bestway has agreed to extend the current supply deal Costcutter has with the Co-op until 2026. Crucially, this means they will retain access to the popular 2,000-strong Co-op own-brand range.

“It is an important first step for us that we reassure our retailers and they see we have their best interests at heart,” says Bestway MD Dawood Pervez. “We know the existing product range works well for Costcutter through its current supply agreement with Co-op and have taken steps to ensure our retailers can have trust and confidence that their product range is not about to change.”

The deal has so far received a mixed reception from retailers who have spoken to The Grocer.

“There is no symbol champion at the moment, so let’s see what they’ve got,” said one retailer.

“Costcutter acted like a middle man, Bestway is a complete package, it will be interesting to see the difference as things progress.”

However, another warned: “We are nervous and uncertain and it will need a reasonable charm offensive from Bestway.”


Virtual trade shows

Part of the appeal for retailers like Singh is Nisa’s ability to supply the Co-op’s 2,000-strong own-label range. That served as a boost to recruitment before lockdown – but Nisa hasn’t simply been trading off the Co-op deal. Even in the midst of Covid-19 restrictions, it wanted to recreate the opportunities usually presented by its annual trade show. So in October, it held the event virtually for the first time.

The digital version boasted all the usual attractions of its traditional, face-to-face Stoneleigh event, including a star host in the form of comedian Alex Brooker. Features included one-to-one meetings with suppliers, virtual store tours, special deals, category insights, and the opportunity to interact with Nisa staff.

Spar took a similar route. Its wholesalers AF Blakemore & Son and CJ Lang & Son both held virtual trade shows to highlight Spar’s strategy and the benefits of being a member. Plus, Spar Scotland held its own show in November to replicate all the features of a face-to face event, including a business update, and attracted “a record number of attendees” in the process.

“We are very clear that there are great prospects from convenience and we are using every facility to show retailers how to make the most of every opportunity,” says Spar’s Taylor. The group now plans to hold “a number of other virtual events” this year.

The crucial advantage of these events, of course, is that they allow the operators to show a large audience everything they have to offer. So it helps if you have something new and exciting in the pipeline.

That’s why Nisa chose its trade show as the launchpad for its Express store format. Designed to cater for compact spaces of up to 1,000 sq ft, it comprises three store designs: food-centric, forecourt and essentials. Nisa head of format Darren May said it was aimed at smaller stores “who want to ensure their business is contemporary, has the right look and feel and provides their customers with the best shopping environment.”

“Importantly, we want to ensure all partners have access to a Nisa fascia and format that complements their individual offering and location and we believe this is achievable with the Nisa Express format.” If the initial interest is anything to go by, that could well be a further boost to recruitment. In November – just one month after the format was unveiled – Nisa claimed it had received approaches from more than 40 retailers looking to convert to the format.

Nisa wasn’t the only one broadening its offer to lure members. Bestway, which attracted more than 100 new stores during the pandemic (although it suffered a net loss in numbers), unveiled two new retail concepts in October. BB’s and Tippl, designed as extensions of its Bargain Booze and Wine Rack brands respectively, looked to broaden the appeal of its symbol and franchise offer to attract retailers looking for a more premium format.

Take BB’s, which offers premium beers, wines and spirits alongside fresh pizza, nachos and milkshakes.

Bestway Wholesale MD Dawood Pervez believes the format can succeed in a more upmarket retail environment. “BB’s is a model that can help the brand cut through in more premium areas,” he says. Similarly, Tippl aspires towards the higher end market with products such as sourdough pizza, barista coffee and pastries. “We are continually reviewing our store propositions and this will be an ongoing focus as we adapt fast to changing needs in the market and look to support our retailers and help them make more possible through fresh innovation that leads the market,” adds Pervez.

Existing tools

Still, you don’t necessarily have to bring out new concepts to succeed in the pandemic. Sometimes, more established tools can come into their own.

Costcutter, for example, points to its long-standing Shopper First programme as a key pillar in its recruitment process. It identifies customers who don’t currently shop in store, and helps stores attract them with in-depth shopper insights, brand advice, space guidance, range advice and store execution tips. That was undoubtedly an advantage at a time when the pandemic threw usual shopping habits into disarray, and new customers were up for grabs more than ever.

It’s about “looking through the lens”, says Costcutter business development director Jamie Davison. “And understanding how retailers can become more relevant to more shoppers.”Costcutter business development director Jamie Davison says the insights has helped retailers convert “lifeline” shoppers – those who simply visited the store out of necessity when the pandemic hit – into “lifelong” shoppers who would remain loyal.

“It’s about working on a joint business plan with all of our stores, and new stores, in understanding their shop performance, what makes them different to the competition, and knowing their demographic.” This was all part of the business development director role Davison assumed at the start of last year. He created a new team focused on new business just before the UK was thrust into lockdown. That team is split into three parts to focus on existing stores and new stores, while engaging with recruits in the pipeline.

The team has had its work cut out this year. “We were agile with our approach,” he says. “And it was clear once we got over the first six weeks of lockdown, new business was going to pick up pace, not dry up.”

But the lack of freedom to visit stores meant the business had to completely reshape its communication style.

“It became more of an interview process, asking retailers to talk about themselves, their business, their aspirations, their Epos data, with a lot of the information being shared remotely,” Davison adds.

“But we’re used to turbulence,” he says. “When Palmer & Harvey collapsed in 2017, that was a massive problem for our business. Now it’s over two years later, and it’s just another challenge for us to face.

“But across the business, it was very calm, there was no panic, it was all done in our stride, because we are a resilient business.”

So as the industry looks to continue its momentum into 2021, particularly with the likes of Nisa establishing a record year for recruitment, remaining innovative and agile in communicating their offer remains a key focus for the major fascias. That seems to sum up the situation across the board. Because, despite the massive upheaval to recruitment tactics, symbol and franchise groups have not just survived the year – they have thrived.


Recruitment in a digital age: a retailer account

Yogpal Tatla BTP

Source: Blakemore Trade Partners

A strong own-label range, an opportunity to co-invest and an in-house scanning system. These were the key elements that tempted Yogpal Tatla to convert to Spar amid a pandemic.

Yogpal and his wife Buntie have owned and operated convenience stores in the Bracknell and Reading area for more than 10 years under the Londis fascia.

But last November, the couple made the move to Spar. Despite the upheaval of Covid-19, they described the conversion as “seamless” and are now trading all three stores with Blakemore Trade Partners (BTP).

It wasn’t a snap decision. The Tatlas had their first conversation with BTP in 2019. “It is important to get the right offer for our retailers,” says Stuart Ware, BTP new business manager.

“And as a result, it took around 10 meetings to come to a point where Yogpal signed up with us,” he explains.

“The onboarding of the stores did take place during the pandemic, so we honoured our timescale of joining.”

The retailers’ are now due to extend and refit two of the stores, and will conduct a refit at the third one later this year.

“It was about finding the symbol that was willing and eager to work with us and develop our business further,” says Yogpal.

One particularly attractive feature of the Spar offer was its in-house scanning system. It is fully connected to Blakemore Trade Partners so all price changes, promotions and multibuys, as well as auto ordering, are easily available for members.

“The ability to do PayPoint through the system as well as Spar’s agreed merchant services, which are very competitive, was also a plus point,” adds Ware.

Yogpal explains he was looking for a symbol group where the scanning system is all in-house, so any issues in the day-to-day functioning of the shop are dealt with promptly.

“As an owner of a multiple sites, it’s better because I’m not running around under the table trying to chase for help,” he explains. “It takes a lot of stress having to do these things.”

“We are now looking forward to developing the presence of the Spar own label within the store and developing online shopping with Snappy Shopper.”

The Tatlas are a clear example of how the pandemic can be a catalyst for change, rather than an obstacle.


What do the UK’s symbols and franchises look like today?


Best One Dunstable 04

Owner: Bestway Wholesale

Stores 2020 (vs 2019): 1,761 (2,250)

Type: Symbol

Membership costs: None

Delivery costs: £500-£999/£25, £1,000+/free

Minimum contract: Three years

Minimum order: £5,000 per week excluding tobacco

Rebate: Up to 5% under ‘My Rewards’ scheme, plus up to an additional up to 5% with ‘Core Rewards’ scheme

Other benefits: “Dedicated BDM, 300 direct-to-store suppliers with negotiated terms. Over 20 shopper deals a month, and store development consultation.”

Services: “My Rewards rebates can be used to invest in store development projects.”

USP: Has expertise in forecourts, supplying more than 1,300

How are you helping retailers to survive the pandemic? “We have been the voice of independent retailers, championing for fair allocation of stocks as well as PoS signage.”

What key changes and developments have you made in the past year? “We moved from a monthly to a four-weekly promotional cycle and also introduced a delivery app.”

Future plans: “Welcoming the CSG stores to our group, subject to FCA approval.”


Bargain Booze, Select Convenience and Wine Rack

Bargain Booze

Bargain Booze

Owner: Bestway Retail

Stores 2020 (vs 2019): 411 (603)

Type: Franchise

Membership costs: From £1,600 per year

Delivery costs: £500-£999/£25, £1,000+/ free

Minimum contract: Three years

Minimum order: There is no minimum spend, but the subsidised delivery charge is dependent on category

Rebate: Up to 4%

Other benefits: “Award-winning alcoholic drinks range, hand-balled deliveries, national and local consumer marketing support, managed EPoS solution, support for franchisees seven days a week, HR support for in-store recruitment.”

Services: Fascia, EPoS system, full shop fit

USP: “A drinks-led specialist with multiple franchise fascias to choose from.”

How are you helping retailers to survive and differentiate? “The Bargain Booze customer offer reflects the very latest consumer trends, and our consumer advertising has reflected the latest category trends.”

What key changes and developments have you made in the past year? Two new, more premium formats have launched: BB’s and Tippl.

Future plans: “To roll out the new store formats. 2021 is going to be another challenging year and we will continue to focus on refining our ranges.”




Owner: Booker Group

Stores 2020 (vs 2019): 348 (310)

Type: Symbol

Membership costs: None

Delivery costs: None

Minimum contract: Three years

Minimum order: Members must spend a minimum of £10,000 per week

Rebate: Up to 6%

Other benefits: “Free EPoS, market leading distribution network, tri-temperature deliveries, free fascia and installation package contribution.”

Services: “Free store development and merchandising service, and free range advice.”

USP: “Expert fresh food advisors and support, partnerships with Cooks & Laithwaite’s.”

How are you helping retailers to survive the pandemic? “All Budgens stores were supplied with free PoS to help them manage social distancing. Stores were also issued with cleaning stands with anti-bac wipes, gel and gloves.”

What key changes and developments have you made in the past year? “The introduction of the Jack’s range, giving at least 30% POR. We’ve also introduced a new promotions structure with better and stronger deals, including a bigger focus on EDLP.”

Future plans: “We will continue to focus on growing our estate, ensuring our customers continue to prosper.”




Owner: Costcutter Supermarkets Group

Stores 2020 (vs 2019): 1,550 (1,560)

Type: Symbol

Membership costs: None

Delivery costs: None

Minimum contract: N/A

Minimum order: Each order must include a minimum of 120 ambient/BWS/tobacco products and 30 chilled/frozen products

Rebate: Up to 6%

Other benefits: “Access to over 2,000 Co-op own brand products, loyalty scheme rewards, a business development manager, Shopper First growth programme and marketing support.”

Services: “Store development team, CPoS.”

USP: “Our partnership with the Co-op is a major factor in retailer decisions to join the group.”

How are you helping retailers to survive the pandemic? “Recommendations on social distancing, extended opening hours, delivery services and changing shopper missions.”

What key changes and developments have you made in the past year? “Our fresh food offer, meal-for-tonight solutions and a strong BWS range. Last mile delivery has also been a key focus, including our  Uber Eats partnership.”

Future plans: “Continued focus on quality and choice, as well as further development of market-leading shopper insights.”


Family Shopper

Family Shopper

Owner: Booker

Stores 2020 (vs 2019): 106 (91)

Type: Symbol

Membership costs: None

Delivery costs: None

Minimum contract: Three years

Minimum order: Members must spend a minimum of £1,000 for delivery

Rebate: Up to 5%

Other benefits: “X Up to 5% spend and save scheme, free EPoS, and van scheme. Enhanced fresh range and food-to go-solutions are also available.”

Services: “Free delivery at cash & carry prices and free fascia and window imagery.”

USP: “We offer the strength of a symbol group combined with the great value of the discount channel.”

How are you helping retailers to survive the pandemic? Family Shopper has produced free social distancing PoS. Members can also order a free cleaning stand with initial free stock

What key changes and developments have you made in the past year? “New reduced two-page promotion leaflet, reduced allocations, social distancing PoS, encouraging local sourcing.”

Future plans: “Value message improvements, improvements to the ‘nine box plan’, a home delivery app, stronger promotions and a customer loyalty scheme.”


Go Local

Go Local stores

Owner: Parfetts

Stores 2020 (vs 2019): 650 (500)

Type: Symbol

Membership costs: None

Delivery costs: None

Minimum contract: Five years

Minimum order: N/A

Rebate: 2%

Other benefits: “A growing own-label range and three tiers of promotions on a daily and weekly basis and access to a store development team and approved suppliers.”

USP: Parfetts describes itself as “an employee-owned business that puts its customers first.”

How are you helping retailers to survive the pandemic? Organisation was key to Parfetts’ response. “We implemented extra shifts to meet demand very early on. We continued to deliver value by fixing prices and maintaining promotions. We ramped up our direct load facilities and expanded the click & collect and delivery to reduce numbers in depots.”

What key changes and developments have you made in the past year? “The expansion of the GOLD 24-hour depot concept across the Parfetts network.”

Future plans: “We are investing £1.5m into infrastructure and facilities and extending our Aintree and Sheffield depots to increase capacity for the delivered operation.”




Owner: Booker

Stores 2020 (vs 2019): 2,131 (2,022)

Type: Symbol

Membership costs: None

Delivery costs: None

Minimum contract: Three years

Minimum order: £5,000 per week

Rebate: Up to 5%

Other benefits: Free EPoS, market-leading distribution network and tri-temperature deliveries. Londis customers also get order-free extra PoS and free fascia and installation package contribution

Services: Members have access to a free store development and merchandising service, as well as free membership to ACS

USP: “We now look after and supply over 1,300 forecourts, making us the number one symbol group in this space,” says Londis.

How are you helping retailers to survive the pandemic? “We provided retailers with free PoS marketing and cleaning stands containing hand wipes, anti-bac gel and gloves. We also ensured access to key lines.”

What key changes and developments have you made in the past year? “Launched the Jack’s range into stores, with 95 lines available so far. All of these are giving at least 30% POR.”

Future plans: “Developing the Jack’s range further and improving our choice, price and service.”



2 Nisa Kimberlow Rise_exterior

Owner: Co-op

Stores 2020 (vs 2019): 982 (947)

Type: Symbol

Membership costs: From £860 + VAT annual subscription for Nisa’s paperless option

Delivery costs: Dependent on retailer

Minimum contract: Six months on a rolling basis

Minimum order: Thirty cases per order and 100 cases of chilled/frozen produce per week plus 300 cases of ambient products per week.

Rebate: Not disclosed

Other benefits: Access to 2,400-plus Co-op own brand products.

Services: “A strong team, a staff training facility and comprehensive marketing package. A bespoke EPoS solution and contemporary store formats including Evolution and Nisa Express.”

USP: “Access to the award-winning Co-op own brand range.”

How are you helping retailers to survive the pandemic? “We have given information and guidance on safety and partnered with delivery service providers to help reach vulnerable customers.”

What key changes and developments have you made in the past year? “The new Nisa Express format and new site”

Future plans: “Closer collaboration with Co-op and suppliers.”


One Stop

One Stop_0001

Owner: Tesco

Stores 2020 (vs 2019): 200 (200)

Type: Franchise

Membership costs: £92 per week

Delivery costs: None

Minimum contract: Five years

Minimum order: N/A

Rebate: 1% excluding tobacco and news

Other benefits: “Retailers have monthly visits from a BDM and a £50,000 fixtures and fittings package is paid upon signing. PoS packs are provided for free, with all systems and technology implemented, including an EPoS system. And access to training.”

USP: “We have 900 stores, providing franchisees with all of our expertise. With extensive data and research, we offer greater buying knowledge and market-leading promotions.”

How are you helping retailers to survive the pandemic? “Our retailers were provided with correct equipment, signage and information at no extra cost, to assure customers and employees were safe. Communication was constant, with updates throughout the pandemic on availability”

What key changes and developments have you made in the past year? “We have moved to a six-day fresh delivery model, continued developing our own label range and have added the Jack’s range.”



Premier Exterior_0001

Owner: Booker

Stores 2020 (vs 2019): 3,500 (3,350)

Type: Symbol

Membership costs: None

Delivery costs: None

Minimum contract: Three years

Minimum order: £1,000 for delivery (non-tobacco)

Rebate: Up to 5%

Other benefits: “Up to 5% spend and save scheme, plus a number of other free schemes including EPoS, free van, delivery, store layout and merchandising.”

USP: Premier sees its key selling point as “driving incremental footfall and amazing value.”

How are you helping retailers to survive the pandemic? Sending business update emails in line with guidance from the Association of Convenience Stores. Plus, issuing a £750 free stock voucher to all Premier stores, as well as other measures to help manage social distancing and PPE

What key changes and developments have you made in the past year? “We’ve added a 5% spend & save band, reduced Premier promotion leaflet, reduced allocations, and produced social distancing PoS materials.”

Future plans: “Premier will keep improving the value message and the ‘nine box plan’. And we will add a home delivery app.”


Select & Save

store front

Owner: Select & Save (supplied by Bestway)

Stores 2020 (vs 2019): 147 (170)

Type: Symbol

Membership costs: None

Delivery costs: None

Minimum contract: Three years

Minimum order: Ambient spend is £1,000 per delivery, excluding tobacco but including frozen food and milk. Chilled spend is £100 per delivery, excluding milk and frozen food.

Rebate: Up to 5%

Other benefits: Member receive a four-weekly BDE visit, a store planning service and free promotional point of sale material for each period, as well as consumer leaflets.

Services: “An in-house team that helps with shop fitting.”

USP: Operated by independent retailers for independent retailers Select & Save is “a small team of dedicated retail professionals that care about what we do.”

How are you helping retailers to survive the pandemic? “We have provided Covid comms and in-store point of sale as well as PPE for members including masks and sanitiser.”

What key changes and developments have you made in the past year? N/A, Select & Save did not give details

Future plans: “We will continue to work with our retailers and provide them with a dedicated service.”


SimplyFresh & SimplyLocal

Simply Fresh Bethnal Green store front

Owner: SimplyFresh & SimplyLocal

Stores 2020 (vs 2019): 96 (90)

Type: Symbol

Membership costs: None

Delivery costs: None

Minimum contract: Five years for SimplyFresh; three years for SimplyLocal

Minimum order: Minimum spend from £7,500 per week

Rebate: Up to 6%

Other benefits: “Both business and store development managers, access to Sainsbury’s or Co-op own label, marketing support including leaflets and social media.”

Services: “Store refit expertise, intelligent EPoS systems, leading range builders.”

USP: “Two fascias that are truly representative of your customers.  Access to Sainsbury’s own label.”

How are you helping retailers to survive the pandemic? “We send out regular bulletins with the most up-to-date industry regulations. We introduced Deliveroo and a live stock level pre-order check has proved invaluable.”

What key changes and developments have you made in the past year? “We created a new management structure and entered a new strategic partnership with Sainsbury’s.”

Future plans: “To develop our offer with a firm commitment to fresh food.”


Today’s, Day-Today, Lifestyle Express


Owner: Unitas Wholesale

Stores 2020 (vs 2019): Today’s 257 (272); Day-Today 249 (230); Lifestyle 255 (500)

Type: Symbol

Membership costs: Dependent on retailer

Delivery costs: Agreed locally

Minimum contract: Contract terms are agreed locally

Minimum order: Minimum spend thresholds are agreed locally

Rebate: These are also agreed locally

Other benefits: “We provide a three weekly promotional programme that runs 17 times per year. This is supported in-store with free brochures, shelf edge, window point of sale and social media packs.”

Services: “Services are negotiated as part of store refits.”

USP: The group’s independent element is crucial to setting it apart from rivals. “We have the backing of the UK’s largest independent wholesale services company. Our objective is to be the champion of independents and champion of brands.”

How are you helping retailers to survive the pandemic? Keeping retailers informed has been a key tenet of the group’s plan throughout the Covid-19 outbreak. “Through the Plan for Profit website, app and social media channels, we have regularly updated independent retailers with key information and advice on the pandemic,” it says.

What key changes and developments have you made in the past year? Despite the pressures of the pandemic, Unitas has continued to invest in the symbol group. “We have invested centrally to provide exclusive retail services and drop shipment via the Plan for Profit website to help retailers source local suppliers to drive sales.”

Future plans: The group says it “will continue our strategy to develop our symbol group and retail club” when the Covid-19 restrictions ease enough to allow it to do so.



SPAR Havannah Street 3

Owner: Spar UK Ltd

Stores 2020 (vs 2019): 2,600 (2,600)

Type: Symbol

Membership costs: Free for the first year

Delivery costs: None

Minimum contract: N/A

Minimum order: Dependent on retailer

Rebate: Not disclosed

Other benefits: Spar says its business development managers “provide crucial frontline support” to members. Plus, it points out that retailers have “access to over 900 exclusive Spar own label products”.

Services: “We operate a multi-format retail strategy that meets specific customer propositions,” says Spar.

USP: Being a large business has crucial benefits, according to Spar. “As a global organisation delivered locally, the strength of the international network means we can deliver significant competitive advantages for stores and retailers, allowing a speedy response to changing consumer and market trends.”

How are you helping retailers to survive the pandemic? Availability was a challenge in the early days of lockdown. But Spar did its best to maintain stock. “We never let a store go without goods,” it says. As time went on, it was a mixture of practical and strategic support. “We issued daily communication, face masks, Perspex screens, posters & signage and access to hand sanitiser stations. We continue to lobby government on issues affecting convenience businesses.”

What key changes and developments have you made in the past year? “Retail business partners have received frequent communications and dedicated one-to-one business support,” the group says

Future plans: Spar will focus on developing its existing strategy. “We will be providing retailers with a multimillion-pound marketing package and a variety of in-store services such as the Daily Deli food-to-go offer, bakery and hot coffee solutions.”