Innovating is the key to success in 2017 as retailers will begin to feel the pressure of rising costs and national uncertainty. That was the message from Ian Taylor, Spar UK’s retail director, when he spoke to Retail Express about the year ahead.

“Retailers are going through challenging times,” Taylor said. “We got a lot of new retailers on board last year, so 2017 will involve educating them as well as keeping our existing retailers up to date.”

Whoever doesn’t adapt will eventually fall behind; we saw it with the multiples when they failed to see the threat posed by the discounters

With retailers facing increasing pressure from Brexit uncertainty, the national living wage and general cost increases, Taylor said that investment and new ideas were vital for business survival.

“Retail is ever-changing,” he said. “Whoever doesn’t adapt will eventually fall behind; we saw it with the multiples when they failed to see the threat posed by the discounters.

“We want our retailers to always be looking at ways to innovate and develop, and we believe that foodservice is the future of convenience. Smaller sites that are used to CTN retail will probably find this quite daunting, but there are plenty of examples of retailers who are making it work.”

Spar stores were being encouraged to adopt its Daily Deli food to go offering, he said, which offers retailers different ranges to meet their customers’ demands.

“Retailers need to ensure that their foodservice offering is visible to passers-by, even if it’s just a signal that they sell coffee to go,” Taylor said.

Spar Eat 17 wine
Ian Taylor said Eat 17, a group of Spar stores in London and Kent, was a good example of innovating to meet local needs

“Our most successful retailers are looking at why their customers are using their stores, which has led to innovations like seating areas, charging points and free customer Wi-Fi.

“It’s becoming more important to create an appealing store ambience that will invite people in. Shoppers are using convenience stores for new reasons, and retailers need to adapt to them.”

Taylor said Paul Stone, a Manchester-based Spar retailer who is working with Deliveroo, was a good example of this, as well as the Eat 17 chain, which has different formats to suit its differing London and Kent locations.

“That’s what’s great about Spar – we help retailers with the structure of their stores, but we also allow local entrepreneurs to shine. They have the flexibility to add their own flair.”

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