Dimitrios Spyrakis is the owner of a 700m2 SPAR Supermarket located in the coastal community of Sussex Inlet, three hours south of Sydney. The store, which was originally opened in 1978 by Dimitrios’s in-laws, was re-branded to SPAR in 2010. For our last issue of Contact International, we interviewed Dimitrios to find out more about his business and how he went from being an Aerospace Engineering graduate to owning a hugely successful SPAR Supermarket.
Becoming a SPAR retailer
Dimitrios has worked in the retail industry for 22 years, 15 of which have been spent in supermarkets. Whilst studying for his Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering degree, Dimitrios met his wife, Maria, whom he went on to marry in 2002.
In 2003, Dimitrios and Maria moved to Sussex Inlet to help run her parents’ supermarket. After what was originally only meant to be a six-month period, they found themselves so immersed in the business that they decided to stay on and take over the running of the supermarket. Since then, Maria and Dimitrios have grown the store considerably, rebranding it to SPAR in 2010 and becoming an integral part of the SPAR family in Australia.
At the heart of the community
In addition to the supermarket, Dimitrios and Maria purchased the Sussex Inlet Tavern in 2006 and the local newsagent in early 2017. The Tavern is a central meeting point for residents of the community, meaning that the Spyrakis engage regularly with customers and truly understand their needs. “Before we took over the newsagent, it was rarely open,” said Dimitrios. Taking it over and bringing the business back to life was important to the local residents and the feedback is that the town loves us for it. It’s really important to us that we work hard for our town and its people. Being one of the largest employers in Sussex, a town of only around 3,500 people, we feel a responsibility towards our community.”
The SPAR Supermarket
Dimitrios and Maria employ 20 people in their SPAR store and more than 50 across the three businesses they run. “We have always employed local staff and have seen many of our employees’ children and their families come through and work in our store over the years. We offer a full grocery range, chilled and frozen products, general merchandise, fresh produce, a full delicatessen, bakery and an instore butchery.”
The destination departments are the Delicatessen, Butchery and Fresh Produce sections. “We are one of the few independent supermarkets that still has its own Butchers on site who cut and prepare our selection of meat daily.”
There is a strong drive to buy Australian products and a big emphasis is put on sourcing products from local suppliers. The meat department stocks only Australian meat and fresh produce is delivered daily from the Sydney Markets. In the Delicatessen area, freshly made salads, hot BBQ chicken and freshly sliced meat are available at competitive prices.
The secret behind the store’s success
“We pride ourselves on our customer service. We have an elderly customer base and we help them in many ways. On average, we make over 80 home deliveries per week, mostly to elderly customers who cannot leave their homes. We believe that this service is essential in a town like Sussex and is what differentiates us from our competitors in the area.
“We also try to stock items that our customers need which cannot be sourced by any other shop in town. This gives customers and holiday makers the opportunity to shop locally rather than having to go to the major centres around us to shop.”
Keeping customers loyal
Dimitrios and his team run a SPAR VIP Loyalty Programme, for which they currently have over 4,000 registered customers. “When customers reach certain spend values, thereby earning points, vouchers are generated and sent to them. We also give customers the option of donating their points to local charities instead of receiving the vouchers themselves. This has become a very popular programme and has kept customers loyal to us.”
Community involvement initiatives
“We are the major sponsor of most sports teams in the area, such as rugby league & soccer, and have been for many years. We sponsor approximately a dozen teams and twenty other community organisations.
“Our coastal community has had a number of natural disasters over the years including floods and bushfires. We work closely with the local emergency services to ensure disaster relief plans are in place and emergency stock is available. In addition to funding, we provide food and water to these services and their volunteers during times of need and our supermarket is a central part of the town’s evacuation and emergency procedures.”
“Over the years, our SPAR store has been enlarged to cater for the needs of the community. It started off as a small, 100m2 store back in 1978 and has grown to 700m2 with a more diverse product range.
“We are currently in the process of building a new 1,800m2 supermarket across the road from our current store which we hope to open in 2018. We will continue to meet the needs of our customers and look at new innovations in the market to present to our shoppers. Our new store will give us the room to act on these ideas and facilitate growth in areas that will add to our core business.”
This story was first published in issue 4 2017 of our quarterly magazine, Contact International.
To read more stories from this edition, follow this link.