In an ultra-competitive market, it is clear that local supermarkets seek to distinguish themselves through freshness, impulse purchases and conviviality. It is also the objective of Spar Lambrechtswhich recently launched a brand new budget and exclusive online project.
The pilot store opened in December 2020 by Spar Lambrechts in Helchteren defined the outline of a new store concept that adds surprise and variety to the shopping experience. It all started with one note: local stores should stand out even more for authenticity. A year and a half later, what are the first lessons? RetailDetail traveled to Tongeren.
“The decision to simplify the dry and non-food assortment while placing even greater emphasis on clean and fresh preparations, impulse purchases and crossed sale it was definitely the right path”, explains Commercial Director Manu Suffeleers. “But we come across a sore point that many entrepreneurs face today: the war for talent is also a reality for local merchants. The smaller the team, the heavier the absence or departure. Our entrepreneurs must be more creative than ever in their stores, working with seasonal products, promotional assemblies… Retail has become a complex activity. »
To make a difference, you need to find employees who love food and provide them with the right training. “In this area, we have recently supported our independent retailers with a clear job posting page at www.spar.be, where applicant data is processed directly by the store in question, in full GDPR compliance. »
While convenience stores had a good two years during the pandemic, they are now suffering from rising energy costs, rents and wages as price pressure intensifies. The context doesn’t make things any easier: food retail is becoming a dumping ground. Competition is intensifying and redemptions are being made at increasingly higher prices. “We are putting even more emphasis on local supermarkets with a maximum of 400 m². This is our true core business”, we explain at Lambrechts.
“Consumers continue to visit convenience stores for fresh produce and convenience purchases, but in the area of dry foods, we are seeing a shift to lower-priced staples. That’s why we’ve introduced a discounted product line called Spar N°1. They are mainly pet food, toilet paper, canned goods… We offer around 70 references, with around 35 more to come. We buy some of these products through Spar International, but we can also add local references when a Belgian touch is essential, particularly in milk and mayonnaise. This line will have a prominent place in stores. »
Online recovery movement
In November, Lambrechts introduced its online store module to affiliate retailers: Spar and Spar Express offer their own online store via sparonline.be, and consumers select the store they want to order from on the website.
“We took advantage of the health crisis to catch up on master data. So we achieved in two years what would have taken much longer under normal circumstances,” explains Sanne Bringmans, Content Manager. “One of the uniqueness of our approach is that each store has its own online store. we have one backbone unique, but each retailer sets its assortment and prices. Consumers also shop online at “their” SPAR. At the same time, we take care of the photography of local products, the clean preparations and dishes, the declaration of nutritional values…”
The pilot store in Helchteren was the first to offer this service, and five more followed. “Today, we implement one virtual store per month. Preparation takes about two months. Customers are gradually discovering the online store SPARonline.be, but the convenience store cannot be left behind. “What about customer behavior? The trends that we already saw in stores are extending to e-commerce. We found, however, that while it is easier to have an overview of all promotions in the online store, shoppers order fewer promotions on the Internet. On the other hand, they buy a lot of fresh and homemade products there. It is very different from what happens in large distribution. »
In addition, the power station is constantly expanding online functionality. “We want to reinforce the offer of impulse purchases and convenience with an additional service that allows easy ordering of sandwiches, cold dishes and drinks. »
“It is essential to disconnect shopping on the go from the online store. This decoupling has two advantages: on the one hand, many customers cannot combine their purchases with the purchase of a lunch or snack, for example, because they do not have refrigerators at work. On the other hand, many business owners find it difficult to manage phone orders. Online functionality should facilitate fast ordering and processing for customers and retailers. The launch is scheduled for this year. »
“We dare to question traditional truths”, concludes Manu Suffeleers. “We need to increase margins for retailers anyway by adjusting the product mix, including emphasizing home fresh produce, impulse purchases and convenience. But passion for work, food, and company is at least as important, and that goes for the entire store team. This is where the big challenge lies. »
RetailDetail visited the headquarters of six food franchise organizations this past summer. You can read our reports in a series of weekly articles. This is episode four.