AF Blakemore is set to drive a further rollout of the Spar Market fascia under its ‘New Era’ initiative.
The Spar wholesaler told The Grocer it is converting six more AF Blakemore-supplied stores by February next year, bringing its total to 10 overall.
The store format, which has an “elevated” fresh offer, was first launched in 2017 with independent Spar retailer Conrad Davies at his flagship store in Gwynedd, Wales.
However, a wider rollout of the format was “slowed down” by the pandemic and AF Blakemore is now using its New Era programme to drive the fascia and a “new breed” of Spar stores, it said.
“It’s an extension of our Flagship Store Programme,” said Blakemore Trade Partners commercial director Louis Drake. “We’re always developing new stores, ideas and formats and trying to provide a new way for our consumers to engage with our sites. The Spar Market fascia is the vehicle for making those changes.”
The first store to launch on the programme was its company-owned store in Bala, North Wales in July. Spar Calver in Derbyshire, an independent retailer, is next to be converted. The other stores set to take on the fascia are in areas including East Anglia and West Midlands.
The format is designed for larger convenience stores with a focus on fresh foods. Therefore, a store must be bigger than 2,000 sq ft and already be using a fresh or ‘now for later’ format to meet the Spar Market criteria, the wholesaler explained. They also need a strong range of products from local suppliers.
“It’s an evolution of our formats,” said Spar UK retail director Ian Taylor. “And Spar Market is an elevated fresh format. Stores will have butcheries, large produce fixtures, and better bakeries. But each store will be different and unique to their local community and will be famous for a different element of fresh. It’s not one size fits all.”
The business said it works closely with retailers to develop their stores, providing tailored design, range, pricing and marketing support, as well as the finance to deliver retailers’ projects. Since Davies’ refit in 2017, his fresh food offer makes up 53% of his total sales, an increase from 46% pre-refit.
“Our goal is to drive higher levels of sales and profitability,” added Drake. “It’s about the best utilisation of the store, making sure we give the right proportion of space to the right products, and introducing new ranges to fulfil consumer missions within that space.
“We’re trying to drive basket spend, drive bigger baskets and be seen as the destination food store for those communities.”
There are currently no Spar Market stores within the regions that the other Spar wholesalers supply. AF Blakemore is the first to drive the proposition forward.