Spar retailers are to gain access to a range of online, own-label and food-to-go developments designed to help them maintain the customers they gained during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Wholesaler AF Blakemore, which is one of five regional wholesalers supplying Spar retailers throughout the UK and Ireland, held its annual Spar Retail Show on 3 November. Speaking at the opening of the conference, held online for the first time due to coronavirus restrictions, Blakemore group commercial managing director Jerry Marwood said: “It’s important that we keep building our businesses to support you, and help you keep building your businesses to give customers what they want.

“Next year is going to be as competitive as ever. Customers will want better value, better choice and better quality. They’ll want it delivered in a way that corporate businesses just can’t replicate, and that is our opportunity.”

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Local shopper data

Spar UK managing director Louise Hoste outlined developments made to help retailers identify and retain new customers. The company has worked with customer research specialists CACI to record the number and types of customers visiting stores. “We can use this data to understand our customers and stores better. We can classify how customers use the stores hour by hour and use it to understand what is going on around our stores,” she said.

The information will help determine nearby retail and food-to-go competition, how many customers live near the shop and where they are travelling from. The impact of seasonal events on footfall will also be analysed.

Hoste added that Spar had gained 250 stores this year. For the year ending 5 September 2020, Spar had also grown 15% to take 1.5% of the UK’s total grocery market. Spar wholesale sales also grew by 3.4% for the year ending 30 April 2020.

Blakemore food-to-go at-home range available to Spar retailers

Food to go

AF Blakemore food solutions director Nikki Rogers announced two food-to-go concepts available to store owners. The first is a ‘Prego’ pizza concept, which has been trialled at a store in Birmingham, where pizza can be prepared and handed over to a customer in 90 seconds upon ordering.

The second is a rotisserie chicken bar expected for a December or January launch, allowing customers to either order a full chicken, chicken salad, kebab or snack pots.

Other updates to Spar’s Daily Deli own-label range have also been developed. “The criticism towards Daily Deli was that it was a little bland. We’ve really focused on new flavours and cuisine types, and a broader range of hot products. If we get the hot offer right, we can get customers to come in and pick up food to go and other convenience products,” Rogers said.

The range now includes 17 additions, such as salt beef pretzel roll, chicken tikka baguette and cheese & ham sandwich. There are also low-calorie and low-fat options available.

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“We’re also making sure there are no unnecessary allergens and listed every single item and ingredient,” Rogers said. “We’re confident we’re able to satisfy customer needs while staying safe and compliant with safety regulations.

“Food to go is as important as ever and we’re confident we have the range to satisfy your customers’ needs, while also giving you the technical expertise to deliver food to go safely and securely.”

CJ Lang

Scottish Spar wholesaler CJ Lang held its own online expo on 5 November, unveiling developments in its CJ’s food-to-go brand and an upcoming television campaign.

The CJ’s brand, which has been launched in 24 of CJ Lang’s 300 Spar shops, offers food to go such as doughnuts, bacon sandwiches and sausage rolls. CJ Lang chief executive Colin McLean said: “Our focus going forward is this new food-to-go offer and it is the biggest food-to-go investment we’ve made in many years. We want to bring new customers into stores.”

The wholesaler is also launching a value-focused TV advertising campaign. The campaign, which accompanies social media and radio advertising, will be aired at different points in November, January, March and May. Products featured in the campaign will include core lines such as milk, eggs, cheese and coffee.

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CJ Lang trading director Richard Collins made reference to a similar campaign launched in September. He said: “Results speak louder than words. When you compare the two weeks of the campaign to the previous six weeks, wholesale case sales were up 143% and unit sales in company owned stores increased by 333%.

“Stores will have full participation and get pre-sell and allocations on the featured lines, promotional displays, full PoS and support setting up two days before the campaign runs.”

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