Symbol Group Special: SPAR

A closer look at Spar's business model and ethos, including a chat with sales director Colin Donnelly...


Brand Central

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10 August 2017

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Symbol group: SPAR
HQ: BWG Foods, Greenhills Road, Tallaght, Dublin 24
Distribution network: National Distribution Centre servicing fresh, ambient and alcohol to stores nationwide
Number of stores nationwide: 400
Colours: Red, white and green
Tagline: “Under the tree at Spar”
Twitter: SPARIreland
Facebook: SPARIreland
Average store size: 200 sq m
Wholesale partner: BWG Foods
Forecourt partners: Amber, Campus, Esso, Great Gas, Inver, Maxol, Morris, Stat Oil

Operating in Ireland for over 50 years, Spar is one of the country’s largest convenience retail groups. From the time it opened its first store in Dublin, the company has prided itself on creating exceptional relationships with all of its retailers. “Our policy of recruiting independent retailers who share our vision for the Spar brand is key to our existence, and our success,” says Colin Donnelly, Spar’s sales director.

While convenience is the foundation on which the Spar brand is built, the offering is constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of consumers. Today, Spar focuses on the customer; price and value is a key factor in the Spar offer, and the offer is always evolving. “Our new initiative and focus on health and wellbeing, Spar Better Choices, is delivering new sales in key categories,” says Donnelly. “It is Spar’s firm belief that we are not in the food business serving people but in the people business serving food, so superior customer service is the key to our brand and to the success of Spar overall.”

Being part of Spar international, Spar retailers have unique access to some of the best practice in retail from around the world. In return, Spar Ireland is a leading light on a world stage, responsible for pioneering some of the latest and greatest thinking in convenience with new store designs and food solutions.

Group dynamic

The National Council of Spar Retailers (NCSR) plays a key role in the success and development of the Spar brand in Ireland. This advisory body is made up of 12 retailers who were nominated by fellow retailers representing the various store formats within the group as well as across Ireland.

As part of their role as council members they help develop Spar Ireland’s overall strategy and policies as well as discussing opportunities and challenges retailers face.

“Retailers’ views are very important to the council members,” says Donnelly, “and all retailers have equal opportunity to raise their issues or concerns with the council.

Online approach

“BWG Foods has recently launched a new feature rich e-commerce solution called Shoplink,” adds Donnelly, “which brings the best of B2C technology to a B2B platform. Retailers can use this new system to place orders 24-7, review the full BWG product range, choose from promotions and avail of deals.”

In addition, Shoplink is fully integrated with the EPOS system in-store, and the BWG warehouses, allowing stores visibility of their own sales and purchase history when making purchasing decisions in Shoplink.

Challenging times

Colin Donnelly agrees that there are a myriad of challenges facing Ireland’s retail industry currently, and wide implications for them all. “While there is a lot of talk about economic growth, the fact remains that many people are still cash-strapped,” he says. “We aim to continue to offer great value and service to our customers.”

Spar has had a busy year on the marketing front, continuing to co-invest with retailers in promoting the brand through a number of high-profile sponsorships and activities, including a new brand ad for Spar Better Choices featuring Irish soccer captain Seamus Coleman and model and mum, Claudine Keane. Spar has recently been very visible on RTÉ as the sponsor of Donal Skehan’s cookery programme, Donal’s Meals in Minutes. In addition to this, a Spar store continues to feature on the set of the nation’s favourite soap, Fair City, as part of the ongoing sponsorship.

“We are very confident at Spar of our growth plans for 2017 onwards with a strong pipeline of new business for the remainder of the year,” Donnelly adds. “Our policy of recruiting independent retailers who share our vision for the Spar brand is certainly paying dividends.”

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