Spar prepared its UK retailers for lockdown by examining trends and lessons from its outlets in other countries, according to managing director Louise Hoste.

The senior figure told betterRetailing Spar UK had worked closely with its counterpart in Italy, one of the first European countries to enter lockdown, on measures such as social distancing.

“As Italy went into lockdown, we gained an insight into how they approached pandemic through things such as social distancing and placing markers on the floors. At the time, we didn’t know if the UK would end up in the same position as Italy, but we were able to get insight into what was coming,” she said.

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“The UK ended up being a mirror of convenience trends in Italy during the coronavirus pandemic. In Italy, convenience stores were on the rise and supermarkets weren’t growing as quickly.

“Shopping on Thursday, Friday and Saturday grew, but Sunday dropped off. As more countries went into lockdown, we continued to learn more things about hygiene and the market. Other European countries faced similar challenges, and we took a lot of lessons from Italy.”

Spar UK also examined hygiene trends from stores in China. Hoste added: “The fact that Spar is in China helped us get PPE in stock for UK stores.

“Hygiene is a huge market throughout China, and that will continue to be reflected in the UK until a coronavirus vaccine is found.”

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Hoste added that Spar has passed on its own experiences of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK to its international partners.

Some of Spar UK’s stores also offer food to go from high street brands such as Subway and Greggs.

When asked what the company has been doing to support its retailers with food hygiene during the pandemic, Hoste said: “I’ve been on calls with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and we’ve taken lessons from McDonald’s, which was happy to share its approach.

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“Foodservice is an area that we’re gradually reopening, but ultimately it will be up to the individual retailer and our wholesalers. We have to keep listening to and learning from government guidance.

Food to go will still be a big focus for us. We are already seeing sandwich, snacking and coffee begin to grow as people are starting to travel more.

“If there are going to be more people working from home, we’ll see more people buying lunch locally.”

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