spar baskets

The Simon Smith Group, a seven-strong forecourt and convenience business, is is poised to switch allegiance from Musgrave to Spar.

The Gloucestershire-based outfit, owned by the Tew family, has just opened Highworth Service Station, in Swindon, as a Spar in partnership with Blakemore Trade Partners.

The 2,800 sq ft store was originally a 700 sq ft Londis store.

Director Susie Hawkins said the company planned to trade all stores as Spar if Highworth worked out as envisaged.

Three currently operate as Londis and three as Budgens.

“We will look to move all of them across because it is the right thing to do,” she said. “I’ve had a great relationship with Musgrave. These things happen commercially. It’s the best way to go.”

Hawkins said the aim was to establish Highworth Service Station as a convenience store with “a real community focus”.

“By working with Blakemore Trade Partners we have been able to implement the unique feel that we set out to achieve at the same time as benefiting from the internationally recognised Spar brand. Blakemore Trade Partners provided us with co-investment to redevelop our site as well as great product ranges and distribution and support services,” Hawkins said.

Highworth stocks nearly 200 speciality lines from Blakemore Fine Foods, locally sourced meat from Andrews Quality Meats and The Cotswold Farmer, and fresh bread and pastries from family-run bakery La Parisienne Bakery & Patisserie.

Customers are greeted with a display of fresh flowers from the Cotswold Flower Barn at the entrance. The shop also offers vinegars and oils on tap, high-end ready meals and a sports nutrition range. A food-to-go range includes freshly made sandwiches, baguettes, milkshakes, for example.

Jerry Marwood, managing director of Blakemore Trade Partners, said the business had recently enjoyed a string of industry award success with its forecourt retailers and new-concept stores, and it was confident Highworth Service Station had “a very strong future”.

Hawkins said transfer of all the stores to Spar would be done “methodically, one by one” to make the best out of each transition. “I’m thinking over a period of a year if everything goes to plan and it all works.”