Leaders Forum: Lou Jardin, Managing Director, SPAR Australia

As part of the 2022 C&I Industry Leaders Forum, Lou Jardin, Managing Director of SPAR Australia discusses growing up in the industry, challenges the business faces, and how SPAR is primed to take advantage of opportunities.

C&I: What have been the biggest highlights for SPAR Australia over the past 12 months?

Jardin: Seeing the SPAR business continue to grow post-COVID has been very pleasing. It clearly shows that the plan we have been working on for many years is really cutting through. Consumers are now seeing SPAR in a different light, which gives us confidence.

SPAR winning the Canstar Convenience Retailer of the Year award was another highlight. SPAR won each of the following sub-categories making up the award: Overall Satisfaction, Value for Money, Customer Service, Variety of Products, and Layout of store.

Over the last 10 years SPAR has invested heavily in both the quality and expertise of our retailers. Added to this, there has been a significant investment into the look and feel of our stores, making each a significant contributor to the local communities that SPAR is represented in.

Further to the above, SPAR has developed an extensive range of products both corporate and propriety brands, that stand us apart from other convenience stores. The SPAR brand of products has seen significant improvement in range and quality but most importantly at competitive prices.

C&I: What are the biggest challenges facing the industry?

Jardin: The supply chain issues and the resulting inflation following on from the shortages are issues most of us have never faced in our lifetime. The complications we all face are considerable and when added to the considerable delays in imported product from overseas, and the bottleneck in the supply chain, we are in a perfect storm.

However, SPAR is very proud of its record during this period as we haven’t missed a delivery. The only exception was when the highways were blocked due to the recent floods.

C&I: What does your crystal ball say about the year ahead in convenience?

Jardin: Clearly it’s all about online, product development and use of electronic media, and the retailers that master these all at once will win through with the consumer. You add all of these to building environmentally efficient business practices, and that is going to separate the retailers in years to come.

Although the challenges are many, SPAR is very well placed to take advantage of the opportunities.

C&I: What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Jardin: I practically grew up in the industry, as my first job was manning the Coke fridge at the tender age of five. Growing up in the family business gave me some insights into working with family businesses and the difficulties they face daily. You add this to my 11 years as CEO of Metcash’s retail distribution, and I have gained a lot of insight into what’s important to independent retailers in Australia.

I’m now very fortunate that I’m in a very good position to make a difference to the independent family businesses that are part of the SPAR Group and the influence that has on the rest of the independent community. This is very rewarding and satisfying.

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