Blakemore Trade Partners (BTP) has pledged to help its independent Spar retailers grow their margin by 1% every year and continue to match their investments pound for pound.

Speakers at the 2018 Spar Retail Show unveiled a series of new initiatives to provide retailers with ‘food for thought’ and equip them with tools to grow their sales and margins. Spar managing director Debbie Robinson revealed that overall Spar sales increased by 8% this summer, with basket spend up by 6%.

BTP sales director Neil Mercer said: “It is our objective to create a platform that enables retailers to grow their margin by 1% every year. This is about us delivering a clear plan of retail solutions that if implemented brilliantly will create an environment to enable our retailers to deliver the target.”

New initiatives include a new ‘Tonight’s Tea’ concept, which includes a premium ready meal Kitchen range. It was trialled across company stores earlier in 2018, and is now in 39 independents.

Independent retailer Edward White, of Spar Calver in Derbyshire, said ready meal sales had increased by 40% since introducing the new format.

BTP is also aiming to help retailers grow fresh produce sales, with regional sales director Stephen Gale highlighting the category opportunity for Spar retailers given that only 2.3% of BTP sales are in produce – compared to a UK average of 11% (Kantar). As such, Gale announced fundamental changes in the packaging, pack sizes, quality and pricing of the fresh produce range, enabling retailers to build their sales without the challenges of high wastage.

Mercer also announced that retailers on the Retail Partners Scheme (RPS) would receive rebates on their Guild fees.

He added: “We want long-term partnerships with our retailers, helping them to grow both sales and margin through strategic sales drivers that are based on consumer insight, market trends and innovative thinking designed to provide growth and margin opportunities.

“We continue to put a lot of work into researching shopping missions and how our formats can deliver against these missions. The way consumers shop is ever-changing and we are constantly responding and evolving to who they are and what they need, both now and in the future.”

A.F. Blakemore joint managing director Jerry Marwood announced new investment in warehousing infrastructure and technology. The launch of a new commercial system will put the business at the forefront of technological innovation in the UK convenience market, he said.

He confirmed that Blakemore had shed its final cash & carries. “We’ve paid all our debts, we’re out of cash & carries, and we can now further invest in the rest of the business.”