Spar retailers were making changes to ensure they were following customer trends in challenging times, says the groups managing director Jerry Marwood, announcing a sales increase of 8% for the three months to October 31.

Marwood said: “Spar retailers are true entrepreneurs, finding opportunities out there everywhere. Our retailers are constantly adapting their businesses to respond to changing consumer needs and it’s clear that in the current market place the faster one can move the bigger the opportunity.”

The confectionery category showed Spar’s largest sales increase last quarter, with a 10% hike suggesting that some of the Woolworths business had stayed in local communities, while grocery (8.5% increase), fresh (up 5%) and frozen (5% increase) were other sectors performing well.

“Customers are obviously talking about price and are reading promotional leaflets a lot more than they were. They have cultivated a bargain-hunting approach – making weekly budgets and shopping lists and shopping around to different stores to get the deals they want,” Marwood added.

“Our stores no longer just depend on selling tobacco and the ‘old’ convenience model is changing. That means we are becoming established for selling in more complex categories such as fruit, vegetables and meat.

“Independent local retailers will have an important place in the lives of customers in 2010. They are the entrepreneurs, employers, innovators and a route to market for vital goods and services as well as understanding customers and fulfilling their varying daily needs.”