SPAR: Q&A with Colin Donnelly, sales director

Colin Donnelly, sales director, Spar

With more than 400 stores nationwide and a newly-launched brand identity currently rolling out across Ireland in a major project, 2019 is a year of change for the Spar brand.

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26 August 2019 | 0

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What are the main values that your symbol group channels through its retailers and their stores?

Our policy of having independent retailers who share our vision and values for the Spar brand is key to our success. We have a united goal at Spar: to deliver the best value and highest quality products, with excellence in fresh food retailing, every day. Our ambition is to satisfy all our customers’ needs, by always having what they want, when they need it, in their local Spar stores.

Wholesaling is a key part of the relationship between retailer and symbol group. How does your group maintain and promote this area of the business?

Spar stores are serviced by the BWG National Distribution Centre (NDC) in Kilcarbery, Dublin. The NDC, as it is known, incorporates the group’s ambient, fresh and chilled distribution, along with the company’s bonded warehouse, making it one of the biggest facilities of its kind in the country. The NDC operation ensures that Spar stores receive the freshest of ingredients all the time and all Spar retailers benefit from a diverse range across all categories as well as healthy and tasty foodto-go offerings. Spar retailers are independent owners and operators, but being part of the larger BWG family means they are also part of one of Ireland’s largest retail and wholesale groups.

More and more, symbol groups are pivoting towards a broader and more comprehensive fresh offering than ever before. From a symbol group’s perspective, what is the catalyst for this change?

Spar is a leader in retail foodservice within the market, which undoubtedly is driven by our rich heritage in food and beverage innovation, built up over many years. We take great pride in being innovators and trendsetters when it comes to retail foodservice and, in particular, when it comes to our fresh food offering. Spar Deli has consistently been a stand-out offering for our customers who are used to purchasing only the finest quality fresh food, either food-to-go or food to buy and consume in-store. One thing we never compromise on is the quality of our fresh food and we have recently redesigned the Spar Deli concept, which is at the heart of all future range development as we continue to lead the way for fresh food. Of course, a staple of our commitment to fresh food is our exclusive Spar Better Choices offering, which ensures that eating on the move doesn’t mean sacrificing on health and well-being. We cater to varying nutritional needs, all the while guaranteeing that only the freshest and highest quality foods are on offer for our customers.

One of the main concerns among retailers in 2019 is soaring insurance premiums. Where does your symbol group stand on this issue and the burgeoning campaign to reduce these costs?

The soaring insurance premiums, fraudulent and exaggerated claims are causing no end of challenges to our industry. In recent years retailers have watched insurance premiums rise to unsustainable levels. As a consequence, employer and public liability insurance costs are adding an unnecessary burden and limiting the sector’s ability to grow, create jobs and deliver value and choice to our customers. We in Spar are strongly supportive of efforts to address this issue of national importance through reform as advocated by the Alliance for Insurance Reform. The reality is that the insurance system for Irish businesses in this country is not fit for purpose and the need for systemic reform of the insurance industry in Ireland has never been more acute. Apart from advocating for greater transparency around how premiums are calculated and claims are settled, there is a real need to prevent exaggerated and misleading claims being pursued and settled, and consistency in the calculation of awards at realistic and affordable levels. Tackling our inflated personal injury awards and bringing our level of awards into line with other comparable EU countries is key to reducing premiums.

Apart from the insurance question, what are the challenges facing the business as you see it, on a nationwide as well as a local level?

The modern consumer is very conscious of what they purchase. They want to be able to go into their local convenience store and buy foods that support their lifestyle, particularly when it comes to enhancing their health and wellness. Spar is regarded as the leader in retail foodservice within the market and that is a responsibility we take very seriously and it behoves us to constantly challenge ourselves to come up with new ideas to cater to our customers’ needs and wants. We want to continue to set the trends, which is a challenge everyone at Spar thrives on. From an external perspective, Brexit is certain to impact on the retail industry, along with all other sectors of our economy.

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