Spar has retained a strong position in the UK convenience marketplace at a time of unprecedented disruption by remaining true to its core values and beliefs, according to Spar UK managing director Debbie Robinson.

Speaking exclusively to Convenience Store, Robinson said that “passion and integrity” were key strong points of the Spar proposition.

“I think we’ve been really good at staying true to our roots and our family values, and focusing on the customer,” she said. “Some weaker players in the market have had to make some tough choices, but nobody really knows what benefits will accrue from this, or at what price any benefits will come.

“We already have scale in the organisation,” she continued. “Spar is in 44 countries, with a €33bn turnover, so we have global brand scale and buying power, coupled with the ability to act locally, too.

“That means our balsamic vinegar and olive oil are among the best around, but we also have craft butchers and bakers in our stores.”

Sales at the group are up 5% (7% excluding tobacco) and profits are up 3%, but continued investment in infrastructure and at store level is going to be key for ongoing success, Robinson pointed out.

“Our culture and heritage are all about adaptability. We saw the changes in the marketplace coming and were the first to adapt around foodservice by introducing Costa, Starbucks, Greggs and Subway. We continue to invest in our stores and our infrastructure through operators such as Euro Garages, MRH, Rontec, and Roadchef, and with a new distribution centre in Northern Ireland.

“We have forecourt stores with fish counters, premium ice cream by the scoop, and local craft butchers offering not just cuts of meat, but ready meals, too.

“We stay focused on the consumer and are competing all the time, and with everyone, but our operators all have high standards and a proposition based on differentiation in each location, which is something that the multiples simply cannot do.”