Spar, Marwood, independent, convenience, logoThe Sun devoted 34 words on its business page to talk up the latest quarterly results for “independent” symbol group Spar. Its 2583 outlets achieved a 3.1 per cent rise in sales in the quarter to the end of July compared to last year – “in contrast to a fall at the rival Co-op chain”, added The Sun.

Industry data shows that around 30 per cent of the Spar universe are multiple outlets but as it markets itself as Britain’s biggest group of independent neighbourhood stores there are clearly lessons for other local shops. The Co-op has spent billions in its aim to dominate the local shops market but clearly is being outperformed.

Spar gives four reasons for its success:

  • a substantial increase in the numbers of promotions, up 28.8 per cent year on year;
  • building its own label range, up 4.4 per cent;
  • improving its fresh food offering, up 3.9 per cent;
  • redeveloping its wine portfolio, up 3.5 per cent.

The first two of these trends are evident in most local shops, with the supply chain pushing credible solutions in both areas.

On the last two trends, independent local shops perhaps have more to learn. Spar is investing in fresh food so that it is seen as “moving beyond” grocery top-up shopping to become the place to go to buy everything you need for an evening meal. Wine is an area where many independents need to think beyond the three bottles for £10 solution if they are going to grow their sales.

Managing Director Jerry Marwood is clear that the fragile economy is helping his operators, citing rising petrol prices and shoppers looking to manage their finances on a daily basis as reasons why Spar is successful.

“We know people are reassured by familiarity, good old-fashioned interaction and the social connections they get from stores that are owned and managed by people who make a contribution to the local community,” he adds. Can you do it better or do you need to sign up?