Spar Malone

No stranger to this award, Spar Malone Road in County Antrim picked up Multiple Managed Store of the Year in 2021 as well as this year.

While it’s tough to win this award once, the judges were very impressed by the work done by the team at this store since it last came out on top. Managed by Samuel McCann, the panel praised Spar Malone’s strong emphasis on community relations which set it apart from competitors.

As the only store in the area open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Spar Malone offers has a step up on its competitors, offering full convenience to customers. Situated on the bustling Malone Road, close to Belfast city centre and adjacent to Queens University halls of residence, the store caters to a diverse customer base, including students, residents, and businesses. 

With such a broad customer base nearby, the store could coast by on a captive audience but it actively engaging with local bodies such as schools, youth groups, and churches to be an integral part of the local community. This involvement extends to fundraising at the store level, organising events such as fun-days and competitions, and supporting initiatives like the ‘Malone Road Gateway Restoration Project’ and the development of Lennoxvale Tree Nursery.

The store also works with numerous charitable such as Marie Curie and Action Mental Health as well as participating in events like the Alzheimer’s Society memory walk. While already a hub of the local area, it goes further by engaging both staff and customers in charitable initiatives to further a sense of community.

It has also enhanced its commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. It has implemented initiatives to minimise food wastage, such as offering discounted ‘Magic Bags’ of unsold food to go items, to investing in eco-friendly refrigeration doors and an electric van for deliveries, the store prioritises reducing its environmental footprint. Additionally, Spar Malone actively engages in community projects aimed at improving the local environment, such as planting bee and butterfly-friendly gardens and participating in litter picks.

Spar Malone Road self check out

As well as a strong community outreach, the team have invested in technology and introduced new lines to evolve its offering. It introduced upgraded self-checkouts that have proved very popular – of the 15,752 customers per week, 54% of them opting to use the self-checkouts, an increase from the 37% average prior to the upgrade.

Spar Malone Road Ready Meals

The team has added new product ranges like ‘The Kitchen’ and ‘Go Pig Or Go Home’ which pull in £3,000 a week in sales while still offering ‘Everyday Value’ ranges on a three-week ‘Real Deal’ promotional rotation as well as weekly ‘Mega Deal’ promotions to give shoppers savings on grocery, fresh and frozen foods.

Spar Malone differentiates itself through its unique product range and support for local suppliers. It stocks artisan ready meals made locally in County Antrim and offering exclusive lines which provide customers with options not available at other local competitors.

It has also introduced two new Barista Bar machines that come with a flat white and hot chocolate option and a giant or ‘lux’ size beverage and are already seeing a 20% like-for-like growth in Barista Bar sales on the previous year, averaging around 1,600 cups per week.

Staff training and development is a key focus for the business and team members are encouraged to go the extra mile, from carrying bags to customers’ cars to providing assistance with fuelling vehicles.

With a diverse customer base, the management understand it’s important to treat every customer as an individual and “how we would like to be treated” is the store motto. It does this by ensuring all staff are fully trained when they begin working in the store. All staff undergo a 13-week induction process that teaches them all aspects of working in retail from steps of sale procedure, product knowledge to legal training such as tobacco legislation etc. After this, they have an ongoing learning programme in store called ‘SPARkling service’.