Spar’s largest UK distributor, Blakemore Trade Partners, is “continually and unashamedly” seeking to recruit the best stores in the country, managing director Jerry Marwood told delegates at this week’s annual Spar Retail Show.

Retailers were urged to focus on their point of difference in the marketplace in order to win the ‘mission battle’, with the show centring on a ‘Mission Possible’ theme.

“We need to win the mission battle with our customers each and every day, that’s why our product range, pricing strategy and format development is built on consumer insight.”

He said Blakemore’s partnership approach provided the flexibility to build a range and format that was suitable for a retailer’s core customers, citing James Brundle’s new Eat 17 store that catered for “an aspirational foodie looking for tonight’s tea solution in Hackney”.

James Brundle, whose new store includes a burger bar and the a licence for on trade in a c-store, echoed Marwood’s message to differentiate. “The ones who are really doing well are the ones who are doing it differently,” he said.

However, despite the prominence of artisan and local products, he emphasised the importance of providing value. “We also offer value, we’re not trying to be a deli or a supermarket, we’re doing something in the middle.”

Spar Parkfoot owner David Charman highlighted the success of his butchery, which he introduced after renovating his store last year. “Sunday will soon be the biggest day for butchery, sales after 4pm when the supermarkets close are phenomenal.”

Meanwhile, HIM research revealed that 45% of shoppers rate the quality of fruit and veg as ‘excellent’ in Spar stores, according to executive director Jill Livesey.

She added that shoppers rated Spar stores nine out of 10 for both ease of shop and availability, and 9.5 out of 10 for staff friendliness - the three most importance criteria for c-store shoppers.

Justin Mcllveen of Spar Llanwrst, Wales, was named Spar Retailer of the Year 2014 at the conference in Birmingham.