COVID-19 responsiveness: Better together

March 22, 2020 IN THE CATEGORY: COVID-19, Responsible retailing

To offer support in these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 outbreak, SPAR International is assisting SPAR country organisations worldwide to ensure they are equipped with the best possible resources to fulfil their vital role as a retailer at the heart of communities.

Pooling practical information and transferable resources
SPAR International has pooled together to set up a COVID-19 response resource centre drawing from the experiences of SPAR country organisations battling against the COVID-19 outbreak. Commencing initially with SPAR China and SPAR Italy, this resource is continuously expanded to provide practical support to the SPAR emergency response country teams worldwide. 

Included in the resources is extensive input and learnings about preparing store operations and the supply chain for the intensification of the COVID-19 outbreak. As of early January, SPAR in China has been working tirelessly to combat the impact of the epidemic. Since mid-February DESPAR Italia, the largest food retailer in North-East Italy has been fully engaged in its COVID-19 response.

Based on the continued intensification of the epidemic, we are seeing patterns of escalation with a time delay across different regions and territories. Insights on the strategies and best practice from SPAR countries at different stages of the fight against the outbreak offer a solid template to prepare countries that are currently beginning to experience the consequences of the epidemic.

Available online via SPAR Connect Intranet, essential learnings and resources are disseminated at speed to the 48 SPAR countries across four continents. This currently includes core planning and response strategy guidance, HR policies, and guidance during the COVID-19 outbreak. It also comprises customer engagement and awareness materials including instore communications, centralised social media content and information, and international social media campaigns, amongst others.

The resources further provide actionable insights and advice on aspects such as instore health and safety measures on distancing in stores, spacing at checkouts, as well as guidelines on training team members so that they can safeguard both their own wellbeing and that of customers.

These materials are extremely welcomed and valued by our SPAR country emergency response teams worldwide as they work tirelessly to support the 13,138 SPAR stores worldwide operate during this crisis. In a continuous cycle, the SPAR country teams contribute to the knowledge transfer with innovative ideas and tools back to the central COVID-19 resource centre.  

Pertinent examples of such knowledge transfer encompass all aspects of SPAR’s global operations, from China’s innovative instore health protection measures such as Plexiglas screens at checkouts, policies to limit panic buying in Northern Ireland, and rapidly developed and effective home delivery e-commerce platforms launched by, for example, partners in Albania. 

Focusing on the procurement of essential protective materials
SPAR International is centrally sourcing essential resources – such as protective clothing including facemasks, gloves, aprons, and disinfectants and sanitisers – to be deployed internationally to support the welfare and safety of our colleagues and customers in SPAR stores around the world. Individual SPAR country needs are collated centrally, and through our extensive international SPAR country operations and supplier network, these essential resources are being coordinated and distributed as they become available.

As the first country to implement decisive measures to reduce the spread of the virus, China offers key learnings on dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. SPAR Partners in China have successfully continued to serve customers amid measures by the authorities that had a dramatic impact on business operations, making their strategies valuable learnings as the outbreak continues to affect other regions. Working in close support of SPAR China as well as our international suppliers, we have secured stock and are providing guidance on essential kits per store. 

Acting in solidarity with their European colleagues, SPAR Shandong located in Northern China has kindly donated 100,000 face masks and 100,000 gloves, which shall be distributed to SPAR stores throughout Europe. SPAR Guangdong in southern China has also donated facemasks and acted very quickly to airfreight these to Europe as the outbreak intensified.   

Securing supply of essential grocery products
Although SPAR Partners have continued to be resilient and successful in ensuring robust supply, our stores have unfortunately witnessed panic buying, creating pressure to maintain adequate stock of certain essential products. 

SPAR International’s buying and commercial teams have been continuously communicating with suppliers to ensure a steady flow of goods, as well as sourcing additional products to meet these spikes in demand. 

Groceries and essential cleaning materials, including sanitisers, disinfectant detergents, handwash, and soaps have been in particularly high demand. SPAR International is actively engaging with its worldwide pool of international SPAR Own brand suppliers as well as our key strategic FMCG partners global teams to support with securing an adequate supply of these resources.

Engaging with European authorities to fast track essential supply chains
SPAR International’s retail development teams that are located and active in countries worldwide have been gaining real-time feedback from SPAR Partners on their most pressing needs. 

Among these efforts, teams are reflecting SPAR’s wide global and regional presence by liaising with governmental decisionmakers on transport issues for partners by communicating directly to the European authorities and retail trade representation bodies such as Independent Retail Europe.

SPAR international high welcomes the emergency EU directives that have been passed to expedite the movement of essential supplies and food products. These include European Commission Guidelines for border management measures to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services. These directives provide for amongst others “fast track green lanes” across EU borders and the implementation of expedited custom controls for protective wear imports.

All information on supportive and preventive measures taken by SPAR Partners around the world will be published on our dedicated page.

Better Together
SPAR was established in the Netherlands in 1932 with a brand vision articulate in Dutch as “Door Eendrachtig Samenwerken Profiteren Allen Regelmatig”, translated to English as “Through united cooperation all shall benefit”. Today that brand vision has never been more relevant.

At SPAR, we are a family. A global family of retailers who choose to work together around the world, to support each other, to pull together and particularly in these present challenging times of the COVID-19 outbreak, this call of solidarity and partnership has never been stronger.

Worldwide over 350,000 SPAR colleagues are working each day to ensure the safe and smooth supply of products and essential services to the communities we serve.

Despite the enormous challenges we face today, we are confident that we shall prevail and come through this crisis even stronger and better together.