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SPAR UK has appointed Chris Lewis and Jackie Mackenzie as interim managing directors. This follows the news that Debbie Robinson was stepping down from the role to become chief executive of Central England Co-operative.

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SPAR UK is set to increase its social media presence through new partnership with social media agency, We Are Social.

Social brand strategy

We Are Social will manage SPAR’s social brand strategy and content development in the UK, and will work with the in-house digital team on producing content and measuring its effectiveness. The social media agency is tasked with helping SPAR increase its community and drive a new audience online.

Michael Lawless, brand and marketing director, SPAR UK commented:

“The SPAR brand is a well-established household name. We’ve undertaken a number of audience studies into where our existing and future consumer-base lies, and now want to ensure this is reflected in our online presence. This is particularly true for social media – it’s an increasingly important communications channel for us. We Are Social was highly recommended both creatively and strategically and has a proven track record for delivering real business results”.

Debbie Robinson, UK managing director of SPAR, has been appointed chief executive of Central England Co-op. She will replace Martyn Cheatle, following the announcement that he will retire in May 2019.

Breadth of experience and leadership

Robinson, who has been UK managing director of SPAR since 2011, brings a wealth of experience, with over 30 years in retail with the likes of Co-op Group, Marks and Spencer and WHSmith.

Elaine Dean, society president, said “Central England Co-operative is delighted to welcome Debbie Robinson at a time of growth and development for our Society. Debbie is no stranger to co-operative ethics and values, having previous experience at a senior level within the co-operative movement. She has a sound track record of success and is highly respected in the retail sector.”

Vision for the future

In her new role, Robinson will be responsible for developing the strategic and commercial direction of Central England Co-op. Robinson has said about the new appointment: “My vision for the future of Central England Co-operative is to grow sustainably and make the most of the society’s key USP; our co-operative principles.

SPAR retail sales increased 4.0% to €3.2 billion (£2.82 billion) in 2017, despite the ongoing uncertainty of Brexit and a weakened pound.  The results were announced in SPAR International’s Annual Report 2017 and mark five years of consecutive growth for SPAR UK.

Net store numbers in the UK remained steady compared to 2016 at 2,620 at year-end, operating from a retail selling area of 384,094m² across the country. SPAR in the UK employs approximately 40,000 people.

UK is “one of the most competitive markets”

At a global level SPAR International said sales grew 5.3%, on a constant currency basis.  Across the Eurozone sales rose by 4% to €16.2 bn, with SPAR Netherlands +7.7%, SPAR Spain +5.5%, SPAR Ireland +4.8% and SPAR Austria +4.4%.

In SPAR International’s Annual Review, the retailer acknowledged that the United Kingdom “continues to be one of the most competitive markets in which to operate in the convenience sector”.  It credited the strength of its business is to “the stability, determination and resilience of the five wholesale partners”.

SPAR International Annual Report 2017: UK highlights

In its Annual Report, SPAR International highlighted a number of initiatives in which SPAR UK had played a key role for the group:

Health & wellbeing:  Building on the success of the SPAR Natural concept, SPAR UK’s Henderson Group developed a design solution that brings products together in one zone under a Health and Wellbeing umbrella. The concept was successfully trialled in six EUROSPAR stores and is currently being rolled out to the rest of the estate through 2018.

Tailored services: The introduction of Amazon self-service delivery lockers in SPAR UK locations is an example of how SPAR is tailoring its offering and services to different markets by increasingly personalising the customer experience.

Leveraging global scale: The warehouse buying group led by the Netherlands and UK, coordinated the buying of warehouse shrink wrap, using its global scale to secure a 31% saving.  Using best practice from international network, a new cutting-edge 16,700m² warehouse was built to supply stores across Northern Ireland.

Responsible retailing: Henderson Group reduced its environmental impact at the same time as lowering its operating costs by upgrading its refrigerated delivery fleet

Supply chain collaboration and efficiency: The UK was part of a group focussing on the end-to-end supply chain shared best practice on inventory optimisation and reduction which is now available for all partners.  Henderson Group has implemented an electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) system to optimise delivery fleet efficiency.

Embracing technologies:  Building on the systems used by SPAR Norway, AF Blakemore is working with a Norway-based retail software provider to modernise its technology with solutions such as self-scanning, self-checkout, mobile point of sale and mobile back-office operations such as real-time sales reporting, Food-To-Go preparation, task management and store logistics.

Digital engagement:  James Hall in the UK ran a pilot programme of allowing customers to order their Christmas shopping online for collection at their local SPAR store.

Developing talent: SPAR Partner initiatives in 2017 include the SPAR Inspire Residential, a SPAR UK leadership programme to develop store managers.

Celebrating 60 years: SPAR UK celebrated its 60th anniversary. Over 1,700 retailers, wholesalers, store staff and suppliers attended a spectacular celebration in Manchester city centre. Over £100,000 was raised at the event for SPAR UK’s new charity partner Marie Curie. Through further donations prior to the event and a commitment from the SPAR UK Board to double the money raised, a total of £640,000 was donated to Marie Curie


SPAR UK at IGD Convenience Retailing Summit 2018

Hear Debbie Robinson, managing director of SPAR UK, and her senior team present their leadership briefing at this year's must-attend summit, 26 & 27 September.


IGD Convenience Retailing Summit 2018


26-27 September, London


Convenience continues to outpace big store formats. This year we have launched a two-day event to help you explore every opportunity, possibility and future trend to boost your business.

Find out more »


An essential summary of trading priorities, latest developments, and other key commercial insights for SPAR UK.
Our pick of some inspirational stores to see in Manchester.
A selection of great convenience stores.
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Key presentation

This in-depth guide to the United Kingdom explores the key trends in grocery retail and the growth strategies of the leading retailers in the country.

An essential summary of trading priorities, latest developments, and other key commercial insights for SPAR UK.

We've developed a single, universal methodology for calculating food and consumer goods retail data, supported by our programme of primary and secondary research. This makes Retail Analysis the most reliable and robust source available for data of this type. 

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