2012 will be “as big as retailers want to make it”, according to Spar managing director Debbie Robinson.

With the next year packed full of significant occasions such as the Jubilee celebrations and major sporting events such as the Olympics and Euro 2012 football championships, as well as the usual events such as Halloween and Mother’s Day, Robinson is adamant that big opportunities still exist in the convenience sector despite the state of the economy, she told C-Store.

“There are a lot of short-term, tactical wins to be had, but retailers need to be very practical and pragmatic in how they get behind these events.

“There’s no need to over-complicate events,” she continued. “It’s not about importing loads of stuff with a short shelf life it’s about drawing up a sales plan and making the displays very clear in store, staying in stock of the key lines. We need to make sure we have a clear message that consumers can buy into, whether it is for seasonal events, big nights in or mealtime missions such as breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cost control is important, too - energy costs, rates and wages are all going up and we need to watch that, but the solution is to increase sales, so we need to have growth agendas.”

While implementing a sales plan for the year represents the best tactical opportunity for retailers, strategically Spar will be focusing on driving own-label this year, Robinson explained.

“Own label is a huge opportunity for us,” she said. “Our new S Budget range, which offers the very best value for money, is building a growing awareness among retailers and the consumer, and its success creates a halo effect as retailers become more confident about their entire own-label range and order more in.”

Overall, convenience retailers have bigger opportunity than most other business sectors, Robinson added.

“The convenience sector is growing ahead of the broader grocery market, and the symbol group sector is growing ahead of convenience, so we’re well placed,” she explained. “People are giving the c-store sector more attention, the sector is growing, and there is definitely potential for further growth because the shopper is shopping locally more. We will have to work hard to get it, but it’s there to be had.”