Spar Hampton Evesham goes viral with Freebie Friday
From Facebook innovation to welcome baskets, Adam Marsh has found that thinking community is key to success, reports Daryl Worthington
96 Pershore Road, Evesham, WR11 2PJ
When the staff at Spar Hampton Evesham launched their Freebie Friday Facebook initiative, they didn’t expect it to become a national sensation.
“My sister had the idea at the opening of the shop,” store manager Adam Marsh explains. “It was meant to be a one-off, but it’s been so successful that we’ve continued.”
PollyPhil, the business owned by Adam’s family, took over Spar Hampton in 2018. Freebie Friday was launched as a way to promote the shop, and build a connection with the community.
“Freebie Friday is giving back to the customer, but it’s also great social media interaction and marketing for us,” Adam explains.
The campaign encourages shoppers to like and share the store’s posts on Facebook in exchange for being entered into a draw for a free basket of shopping. According to Adam, since the launch, the number of ‘likes’ the store has on Facebook has gone from fewer than 300 to more than 3,000.
“We’re seeing other stores around the country doing it, and they’re saying it’s been a success. It’s fantastic that our idea has helped other stores grow their social media,” he says.
Freebie Friday is just one of several changes brought to the store since it was taken over by PollyPhil, with a substantial refit being the most significant. Working with Spar, they’ve also moved their focus towards food to go and fresh, broadening the range, expanding their bakery section and adding in more linked deals to boost basket spend.
Since those changes, sales at Spar Hampton Evesham have increased by 35%, while basket spend has risen from £4.04 to £6.02. Sales per square foot, meanwhile, are up by 35%.
“Since the refit, the range we’re able to offer customers is fantastic,” explains Adam. “Even though we’ve had two supermarkets open nearby in the past year, we still regularly have customers coming in and buying a full basket of shopping.”
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“We have a farm shop just down the road from us, and down the road from us, and then a Tesco forecourt about a mile and a half away,” says Adam.
Having a post office has driven footfall, and good customer service is also crucial to success, according to Adam.
“We have a few customers who we’ll order specific products for,” he explains. “The fact you’ve gone out of your way to get a product is good for them, but it’s also good for our image.”
Adam also works hard to make a name with residents in new housing estates.
“We work with the developers on the site,” he explains. “They let us know when people will be moving in. We then put a welcome bag in the house, which has a letter explaining who we are, and includes a few Spar-branded essentials to help them settle in.”
Like many retailers, Adam is working on expanding his food-to-go range beyond breakfast and lunch, to also include options for evening meals.
“We have a Chicago Town Pizza stand behind the counter,” he says. “We offer customers either a full pizza, a half or a quarter. It’s only been there a few weeks and it’s already been really popular.”
Adam’s found that having the display behind the counter has captured customers’ attention, leading to them asking questions about it. They’ve also been promoting it through their Facebook page.
“We’ve had customers calling up and ordering a pizza for that evening – they’ll call at 7pm and ask if they can pick one up at 8pm,” he explains.
Adam says they are now working on meal deals for the pizzas, and are also planning to put order forms at the counter, allowing customers to order a pizza in advance.
“In terms of rate of sale, alcohol and cigarettes are the biggest sellers in this store,” reveals Adam. “We’ve already beat our targets on these.”
However, rate of sale isn’t everything, and Adam says food to go has been vital to boosting the shop’s margin.
“If I were to make a list of the top 20 products in store in terms of the gross margin they give us, 50% of that list would be made up of food to go,” he reveals. “It’s what we’ve focused on since we came here.”
Although there was hot food to go in the store prior to Adam’s family taking it over, it’s a section that they’ve worked to prioritise.
“We’ve moved the bakery so you can see it when you enter and we’ve replaced the counter-top hot drinks dispenser with a Smokin’ Bean unit,” he says. “We introduced promotions across the baked range and linked deals with the coffee machine.”
Getting the balance right in the bakery between being well stocked and low on wastage is far from easy.
“When we started, we only baked in the mornings,” Adam says. “Now that’s changed and we’ll have our staff baking from 6am to 6pm.
“Otherwise, you end up with empty shelves during the after-work rush.”
Having set systems and strong communication in place has been vital to making the bakery work and keeping wastage to a minimum.
“The staff fill out a log on every product. If something sold out one day, they know to cook a few more the next,” he says. “Or if stock is left over, the next team know to cook less.”
Of course, it’s not always that predictable.
“If it’s raining, for instance, we know we’ll sell less hot food, so staff need to be keeping that in mind, too,” continues Adam. “But we’re getting a lot better at understanding and planning.”
Getting a bigger Facebook following doesn’t have to mean paying for ads. “The Freebie Friday initiative was a great way to get more likes and shares,” says Adam, “and it only costs us a £15 basket of shopping a week. We never pay to boost our posts.”
Keeping track of what is and isn’t working on social media is vital. “We thought the Freebie Friday idea was going stale, and we were going to stop,” reveals Adam. “However, we checked our analytics and quickly realised it was still really working, so we kept at it.”
The shop’s page is now getting more messages from customers, and it’s important to respond. “They’ll ask about opening hours, or if we have certain things in stock. You can’t reply to every message straight away, so we set up automatic replies so customers know we’re coming to them.”
Always respond to negative feedback. “Generally we get positive reviews through Facebook,” says Adam. “We’ve only had two negative reviews. When we get one, we personally message the customer, and invite them to speak to us so we can try to resolve the issue.”
Post little and often. “There’s no point posting a bunch of things once a week,” says Adam. “You need to have things going up every day, and consistently. For instance, in-store offers, and we also have posts for occasions like World Book Day.”
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