The History of SPAR

The story of SPAR in the early years is the story of Adriaan van Well, an innovative Dutch wholesaler with a clear vision for the future of SPAR. It was van Well’s belief that only through collaborative work could the independent sector survive and prosper in the face of increasing competition from multiple chains.

90th Anniversary

90th Anniversary

The SPAR Brand celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2022, marking nine decades of progress with purpose.

Starting with one market in 1932 in the Netherlands, we fast forward 90 years, to 48 markets in four regions, with over 13,900 stores serving 14.7 million customers every single day.

Driven by our purpose to be the local food store of choice, for 90 years, SPAR has been uplifting and growing communities around the world. And we will continue to be at the heart of the community for generations to come.

The 1930s

The first SPAR store opened in the Netherlands in 1932. It was initially launched as DESPAR, an acronym of a slogan created by van Well to describe the organisation: Door Eendrachtig Samenwerken Profiteren Allen Regelmatig, which translates into English as All Benefit from Joint Co-operation Regularly.

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The 1940s

In the late 1940s, the decision was made to abbreviate DESPAR to SPAR.

The popularity of the SPAR system in the Netherlands did not go unnoticed. In 1947, the SPAR system was adopted by Belgian wholesalers, and SPAR was established in Belgium, marking the start of the brand’s internationalisation.

The 1950s

In the following years, van Well recognised that the SPAR concept had international relevance in offering an alternative to multiple retailers. SPAR International was established in 1953 to support and develop the SPAR concept globally.

Mr van Well was the first President of the International SPAR Board, and he set up SPAR International with an office and management team in Amsterdam. SPAR then expanded rapidly in Europe and was launched in the United Kingdom during the 1950s.

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The 1960s

From 1960 to 1970, SPAR continued to increase its presence in Europe. The brand entered Africa, where the SPAR concept of partnership between wholesalers and retailers was recognised as a basis for independent retailers to compete with multiple chains. SPAR South Africa played a major role in supporting the expansion of the SPAR partnership concept to its neighbouring countries.

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The 1970s

SPAR entered Japan in 1977 and, through ‘All Japan SPAR Central’ built up a network of regional SPAR Partners operating both Neighbourhood Supermarkets and Convenience stores under the SPAR licence. The partner ceased to trade under the SPAR name at the end of 2016, but this market remains of interest to SPAR.

The 1980s

During this period, there were several milestones for the brand. SPAR Austria established an international daughter company, ASPIAG, to extend the SPAR concept further into Central Europe, marking an important new stage in the development of SPAR. The decade began with the 25th SPAR Congress being held in Venice, Italy.

The 1990s

The SPAR Brand developed further with the launch of the SPAR Express retail format and the SPAR Brand’s Own Label range. The establishment of two buying groups during this period by SPAR International greatly strengthened the effectiveness of SPAR in joint purchasing. The non-commercial buying group was formed in 1992 and the own label buying group in 1994. Both organisations were established for the benefit of SPAR retailers and wholesalers. By 1999, SPAR was present in 20 countries, following the opening of the first SPAR store in Australia in 1994. With the addition of Australia, SPAR had expanded to four continents including Europe, Africa, and Asia.

The 2000s

The new millennium has seen the continued expansion of SPAR, particularly in developing countries where the modern retail sector is a major driver of economic development. Since 2004, SPAR has had a presence in China. Throughout the decade, SPAR continued to expand in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in Africa.

The growth of SPAR in existing countries and the level of interest expressed by new countries in securing the SPAR licence point to the continued relevance of the SPAR model in modern food retailing.

The 2010s

This decade was characterised by rapid expansion, seeing the brand enter the Middle East, and the Caucuses, as well as expanding in existing markets through new retail concepts, and the rise in online retailing. In addition to the increased adoption of the multi-format strategy by SPAR country organisations, an online offer has become the norm. Customers today expect to order the full retail offer from their local SPAR store via an online offer, with home delivery or click-and-collect options available.

2020 onwards

In 2020, the importance of food retail and stores serving local communities grew significantly due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. More than ever, SPAR colleagues along the full supply chain play a pivotal role in meeting the needs of the local communities we serve worldwide. Rapid launch of online retailing through diverse solutions extends in this decade, plus the introduction of an international e-commerce SPAR solution to support independent retailers began rolling out in 2022.