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Profile of a SPAR Star: Joanne Walker, SPAR UK

February 14, 2019 IN THE CATEGORY: Feature articles

Joanne Walker, a passionate SPAR retailer with the SPAR UK Partner in Northern Ireland believes in packing as much into life as possible. It’s this ambitious spirit that has seen her achieve so much and we are excited to have had the chance to speak with her.

The start of the SPAR journey

Joanne has been involved in the retail industry for 20 years. Not from a family of retailers, she has really set her own path: “I like to think that retail chose me and here I am 20 years on having worked in many different stores from petrol forecourts, neighbourhood supermarkets and community-based convenience stores, to SPAR and EUROSPAR Supermarkets.”

The very first store that Joanne worked in was a SPAR neighbourhood store, SPAR Donaghadee Road, in Newtownards, Northern Ireland. Nearly 20 years later, Joanne is now a Senior Store Manager of EUROSPAR Donegall Road in Belfast.

Exceptional leadership

“Before my recent move to EUROSPAR Donegall Road, I worked in the rural village of Carrowdore, managing a SPAR store and its transition to a EUROSPAR Supermarket.” Joanne’s leadership through the rebranding of the store in Carrowdore has made her a great asset to the entire SPAR Northern Ireland business. Remaining open for shoppers, the store underwent a huge renovation process that involved doubling the sales area, introducing new departments and creating many new jobs in the community. Despite the challenges of a store remodelling project of this scale, sales increased 37% within a year. The key to this success, said Joanne, came down to two factors: Attention to detail and quality employees.

Continued success

In her new role as Senior Store Manager of EUROSPAR Donegall Road, Joanne’s responsibilities span many different areas. “I guess what I love most about my role is that every day is different. No matter what the plan is, there will always be some form of re-prioritising.

“My role is to manage the daily running of the EUROSPAR in South Belfast, a busy community forecourt supermarket that also houses a Post Office and Daily Deli counter with nine different stations. This entails managing a team of approximately 50 people.

“I strive to ensure that the expectations of our customers are exceeded each and every day and that as a team, we are working together to deliver our KPI’s through following stringent guidelines and procedures.”

Asked what the most rewarding part of her job is, Joanne said: “What I take pride in the most, is when I see others whom I have trained or taken under my wing move onwards and upwards. I think it is fantastic, it really gives me a sense of achievement knowing I have helped in a small way to empower them with knowledge or confidence. In the ever-changing retail landscape, it’s important that we develop from within. When you see potential in someone, give them what they need through training and skills development.”

Joanne manages a team of 50 people, including customer advisors, team leaders, an assistant manager and a post office and deli team. “Being approachable, open-minded and honest are vital to being a good manager,” she said. “The time you invest in your team is invaluable as in the long run, the results will be better.”

International recognition

Earlier this year, Joanne won the prestigious International Store Manager Award run by the US-based, Food Marketing Institute (FMI). The FMI award celebrates outstanding managers who generate sales growth, demonstrate exceptional team leadership and provide fantastic customer service. Joanne was a more than worthy winner.

Commenting on her win she said: “It was a huge honour to receive this award. I’m so proud that I could bring back this international trophy.”


This feature was first published in Issue 4 2018 of our quarterly magazine, Contact International.

To read more stories from this edition, follow this link.