Bernard was recognised as an exceptional brand ambassador at the prestigious IREF (Federation of European Franchising and Partnership Networks) awards in 2017 and we were lucky enough to interview him.
Tell us about your SPAR Supermarket
My store is 330 m2 and is located in Alban, a small mountain village of only 1,000 inhabitants. I converted my store to SPAR in 2000 and it is now the local go-to grocer in the rural Alban area.
It includes all of the traditional departments that a neighbourhood supermarket should have: served counters for butchery, cold cuts and cheese, fruit and vegetables, dairy and other fresh departments. Our 17 metres of chilled cabinets, seven freezers, wine & beer department and organic section illustrate how varied our offer is. I’ve always promoted local products: meat from the village, local bread and pastries, fruit from our orchards, and locally sourced cheese and wine.
I am lucky enough to work with a fantastic team of people who work tirelessly and who use their imagination, kindness and professionalism to go above and beyond to exceed our customers’ expectations.
What’s the secret to your store’s success?
The key differentiating factor is the excellent relationship I have with my customers, with whom I can speak the local Occitan language. Certain customers drive more than 20 km to shop with us. They enjoy our friendly, personal service and the wide choice of products we offer. The people from our village and the local area are delighted that they can shop in a clean, well-stocked store, where they always receive a warm welcome.
I am part of their lives, both in good times and bad. I am always there for them, showing a small kindness when needed. This is something that people remember.
In retail, it’s the relationship with your customers that counts the most – greeting them with a natural smile, showing kindness, telling that little joke that makes them smile – these small gestures go a long way.
Have you invested a lot in your store?
I strive to continually invest in my store to improve the customer experience and the team’s wellbeing. I always seek to create a pleasant atmosphere and keep my store well-stocked as its rural location, far from the city, makes its role as a local supermarket very important.
When I first converted to SPAR, I invested in a complete overhaul of the store – inside and out. In 2013, following SPAR France’s decision to revamp the image of SPAR stores throughout the country, I once again undertook a complete renovation of my SPAR convenience store. It had to close for two weeks during the renovation process, which involved re-tiling, painting and changing all gondolas. In 2016, my wife and I purchased an old building located next to the shop in order to create a 400 m² parking lot. This has greatly improved conditions for our customers, who previously had to park their cars along the busy main road.
Are you involved in your local community?
I am very involved in our local community and was even elected as an alderman of Alban and served on the joint council of Alban and surrounding towns for six years. Over the years, our store has sponsored a number of charitable initiatives and when products are nearing their expiry date, we give them to people in need. This helps them and prevents goods from being wasted. It is heart-warming to help others and I am proud and happy to have played an active if small role in my community.
Tell us about the award you recently won?
My Sales Director suggested that I take part in the IREF awards. I needed to present my store, detail the investments I’ve made and explain my involvement with the local community. I was incredibly surprised when I received a letter from the IREF stating I was among the 60 finalists who were invited to the Awards Ceremony in Paris. I felt really proud being among the first 30 award winners – not too bad for a countryside grocer!
Reflections and future plans
I really value the relationship I have with the SPAR France team who have always been very friendly and encouraging. My years as an independent retailer have given me great happiness and many good friends. I will continue to fly the colours of SPAR and be the best brand ambassador I can be.
This story was first published in our quarterly magazine, Contact International.
To read more stories from the publication which celebrates SPAR success around the globe, follow this link.