Spar Roe Lane, Southport, Merseyside

This Spar forecourt store opened just over two years ago, moving into a unit that was previously occupied by a car showroom. The store was a hit from day one, providing a welcome convenience offering for local residents as well as an easy stopping point for those passing by. DRN speaks to manager, Angela Prescott, to find out more:

What is your local competition like?

We don’t really have much immediate competition in terms of convenience stores, although there is a smaller independent store about 400 yards away. We are in a really residential area here and our store is just across the road from a small parade of shops and a pub.

The store has worked really well for people who wanted a store they could walk to, but we do have a lot of supermarket competition within a two-mile radius, and people around here can easily drive to Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s or Aldi.

How do you differentiate your store from your competitors?

Because it was a new-build store we were able to ensure we focused on delivering a convenience element right from the start, in order to build up a good reputation for being friendly and easy to shop from.

The store attracts a lot of people first thing in the morning, on their way to work, and visitors throughout the day who are either local or driving past. It means we work hard all day to ensure the shelves are always stocked up and we also have to make sure we have a good range of products to cater for a wide range of people.

The other way that we ensure we are different from the supermarkets is that we have a local butcher’s in-store, and we have a deli counter, which serves hot food all day, and a coffee machine. We also have freshly-baked bread.

We have just taken on a staff member to meet and greet customers as they walk through the door. Every day he offers customers a taster of something.

Customer service is a big thing for Spar and we also have to ensure the queue for the tills stays short – ideally no more than two people waiting at any one time, which is a Spar company policy.

When you first walk into the store you will see a fresh fruit and veg area straight in front of you. We have made this display with wooden crates and hand-written signs on blackboards, to give the store a welcoming and rustic feel.

What is your BWS strategy?

We have given alcohol a dedicated area towards the back of the store. The white wines and beers are all chilled and it is designed to be like a walk-in fridge, although it really only runs across two sides with red wines on shelves facing this area. We have four bays dedicated to beer and three for white wine. We have all of our spirits behind the counter.

Alcohol accounts for a big part of our sales so we keep an eye on what sells well, and we adjust our ranges accordingly, making sure we are keeping ahead of trends.

Wine is very popular, and Spar has a good selection. We have just got a new own-label range of regional wines in and these are doing really well. The wines in the range include a Chianti and a wine from Languedoc. People seem to like them, and they are really good quality.

Beer also sells well. We do all kinds of beer including multipacks, bottled ale and also larger bottles of lager.

Sales of cider soar in the summer and then they tend to slacken off a bit, but sales pick up again over Christmas, especially for the fruity flavours.

We have made sure that the majority of people are catered for and so we sell quite a few bottled ales, mostly to the older generation. Our younger customers are more likely to buy cases of lager.

Prosecco and gin sell well, and we have increased our line-up of gin over the past two years. We now have 17 in total. We have own-label, premium, coloured gins and fruity ones. Some people stick to the traditional gins but we are seeing really good sales of the fruity ones.

Have you made any significant changes to the alcohol section since you opened?

Not really. Some people have moved their spirits out from behind the counter but we would be too worried about theft to do that, and there isn’t really any space.

We had a Gin Parlour at the front of the store at previous Christmases and, although it really worked in terms of driving sales of gin, we did notice that it led to some incidents of shoplifting so we were cautious about running it again in 2018.

We have just introduced a premium range of Spar-branded spirits and I think these will do well as they are a good price for a premium product. We aren’t currently able to add in any local products because we rely on a head office buyer to source our products, but we do keep adding to the ranges in order to keep up with trends.

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