Leaders Forum: Lou Jardin, Managing Director, SPAR Australia

As part of the 2021 C&I Industry Leaders Forum, Lou Jardin, Managing Director, SPAR Australia, discusses the changing needs of the Australian consumer, and how SPAR is focused on developing strategies around convenience, but at competitive pricing.

C&I: Highlight one achievement at SPAR that you’re particularly proud of from over the past 12 months.

JARDIN: We are now some 14 months from the full outbreak of COVID-19, and we are very pleased with our performance when you compare it against recent result from Coles and Woolworths. Both Coles and Woolworths recently announced their sales results for the first quarter of 2021, Woolworths were down around two per cent and Coles were down six per cent. We at SPAR achieved a non-tobacco sale growth of 3.8 per cent for the same period, a result we are extremely proud of. It really shows that during COVID, many new customers that visited our stores for the first time have stayed. We are now seeing the market tighten up following the reduction of Government subsidies, but SPAR is well placed to ride the next wave.

C&I: What do you enjoy most about convenience and what is one challenge you’d like to see addressed in the industry?

JARDIN: The biggest challenge facing us is how quickly we can adapt to the changing consumer needs built on the events of the last 12 months, specifically with online shopping, food-to-go, grab-and-go snacking, and healthy eating (including plant-based).

The consumer is all about ease and convenience at affordable prices. The new consumer wants convenience but is resistant to gouge pricing. We at SPAR are focused on developing strategies around the convenience aspect, but at competitive pricing.

C&I: What is the primary focus for SPAR in 2021?

JARDIN: We at SPAR are extremely focused in improving our range offer and expanding categories that are driving the growth all while improving our competitive offer. Both of these aspects have taken many years to build, and we are now at a point where the hard work is showings big dividends. Together, with these critical components are the confidence that SPAR retailers are showing in the SPAR System. We hope to build on the hard work thus ensuring the profitability of the network.

C&I: How do you envision the next six months for convenience retail?

JARDIN: As the major chains push harder and harder into convenience retail, we will see the market tightening up for smaller independent stores. Independent stores have benefitted from COVID as consumers in increasing numbers shopped local and shopped more often. The rest of this year could be increasingly tough for the poor operator, especially those that took advantage of the increased demand to profit excessively.

At SPAR we are just about to embark on a very exciting phase of growth. More details will be unveiled as we work through the final stages of the plans. Plans that will take us through to the end of this decade. We at SPAR are extremely bullish due to the foundations built on hard work of all the stakeholders thus ensuring that SPAR and its many retailers we see continued profitable growth for the network in the future.

This article originally appeared in the June/July issue of C&I Retailing Magazine.

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