The history of SPAR in China
SPAR was launched in China in 2004, with the signing of a licence agreement for Shandong Province. This was followed by the addition of more partners and now, SPAR has eight partners in nine Chinese Provinces: Shandong, Guangdong, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, Henan, Hebei, Beijing and Yunnan.
Becoming an independent SPAR Partner
Madam Xiaoying has been involved in the retail industry for 35 years and joined the SPAR family in 2010, after a thorough three-year assessment of the business fit. Her first SPAR store, SPAR Guanzhuang, was launched in September 2010 in Beijing’s Chaoyang District. Since then, she has successfully opened eight more SPAR branded stores across the capital city as well as a Distribution Centre (DC), which has aided SPAR Beijing’s store operations and regional expansion. The supply chain developments of partners in China now sees 10 DCs in operation with learning exchanged between partners.
Madam Xiaoying and her team have developed a good relationship with other SPAR China Partners over the years – sharing knowledge and resources – a great benefit of being part of the larger SPAR organisation. “We have organised a series of themed symposiums in marketing, logistics and buying to share ideas and best practice examples with our fellow SPAR colleagues. Thanks to our collective buying power, access to SPAR Own Brand products and the availability of preferred supplier equipment, we are able to offer top quality products and services at a lower price. This helps to set us apart from the competition.”
Store portfolio and offer
Madam Xiaoying’s SPAR stores range from 60 to 3,600m2, covering the convenience, supermarket and hypermarket formats. “Our customer profile varies widely from store to store. For example, we have a 150m2, 24-hour SPAR convenience store, which neighbours a 70,000m2 Shopping Mall with a large supermarket on the ground floor. For this SPAR Express store, businessmen and women working in the surrounding offices are our target customers. Even though it is close to a large competitor, the sales turnover of this store is incredible, surpassing our expectations.”
In all of Madam Xiaoying’s stores, the key department is the fresh food section, which has the highest amount of customer footfall. “Visiting our fresh departments has become an habitual part of our loyal customers’ daily routine. In some cases, the introduction of the fresh food department has led to a footfall increase of 50%.
“In addition to our fresh food offering, we provide our customers with many convenience-based services such as: bill payments, various repair and maintenance services, laundry assistance, a courier service and online & mobile phone services. We also offer cooking and cold dish preparation advice, as well as a fish cleaning service.”
Always in touch with the latest trends, Madam Xiaoying has invested in online technologies and multi-channel growth strategies to provide the best value for her customers. “We follow the principle of keeping up with our customers and always putting them first. This means investing in e-commerce technologies that make their shopping experience with us as pleasant and easy as possible. At the time of writing, we have over 500,000 loyalty card customers. We use WeChat for various services and marketing and have almost 200,000 followers.”
The key to success
Staying innovative is a key part of Madam Xiaoying’s strategy for success. “Implementing fresh ideas is hugely important in this industry. You can’t be stagnant in your operations; you have to offer the customer something new and exciting. You also can’t be afraid to make mistakes.
“SPAR Huaguan was the first supermarket to open in the Fangshan District and since opening we have become an integral part of shoppers’ lives. It was also the first to sell fresh produce sourced directly from farmers, the first to launch a customer loyalty programme and the first to open an instore restaurant. In keeping with the increasingly diversified channels, we are ahead of the rest in terms of online retailing.”
What does the future hold?
“Our focus will be on developing more SPAR Express stores as we believe the convenience format is the format with the greatest potential in the Beijing market.
“By ongoing application of my leadership style which is a combination of tough negotiator and empathetic leader, the business will continue to grow.
“SPAR Beijing is recognised in the China Chainstore Franchise Association (CCFA) listing as being in the top 100 companies across the country and we intend to not only retain our place but grow further.”
Madam Xiaoying at a glance:
This story was first published in issue 2 2017 of our quarterly magazine, Contact International.
To read more stories from this edition, follow this link.