Spar is road-testing a new partnership with healthy food and lifestyle retailer Holland and Barrett.

The trial is currently taking place in three Spar stores in Northern Ireland, managing director Debbie Robinson revealed at the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) Summit 2016.

The link-up was already proving popular with healthy focused shoppers, with coconut oil, priced at £15.99 a jar, already becoming one of the top 10 selling items, she added.

Partnering with big name brands was one way in which convenience store retailers could continue to reap success in the challenging climate, she said. “All will benefit from joint co-operation, the time is now and we need to pull together.”

“Spar has been quick to build great partnerships with big names in food-service such as Costa, Greggs, Subway and Starbucks. We’ve probably reached saturation with some, but we’ve learned a lot, and we are now investing in the health trend with our Holland and Barrett trial,” she said.

In the future, Spar stores could also feature exterior vending machines to cater for customers outside of normal opening hours, Robinson added. “We are missing a trick by not doing so, there are many night workers who need services in the out of hours,” she said.

Improvements to in-store parcel collection services would also become increasingly important, as would offering free wifi, she said. “Licences for on trade sales could also become key enabling shoppers to buy a beer or a glass of wine.”

“Being modern and relevant is our big challenge. At the end of the day, what does the past really count for? It’s about today, tomorrow and the future,” she concluded.