SPAR Austria speaks out against discussion on sale of non-food items in grocery stores

April 3, 2020 IN THE CATEGORY: COVID-19

SPAR Austria is speaking out against a discussion initiated by non-food retailers about curbing the sale of non-food products in the food trade. SPAR Austria notes this idea is short-sighted, if not dangerous. If food retailers were no longer allowed to sell their usual non-food range, this would have substantial negative consequences, including the loss of domestic jobs, especially among Austrian upstream suppliers.

The grocery sector is currently operating under enormously challenging conditions but is still maintaining supply to Austria’s citizens through considerable effort and high commitment. 

SPAR and INTERSPAR stores nationwide continue to offer their range and employees continue to provide service in a friendly and competent manner.

Employees challenged already
SPAR team members continue to serve their communities – despite having to wear protective masks and rubber gloves, undertaking continuous disinfection of the stores, maintaining necessary social distancing, and supporting understandably tense customers facing empty shelves due to panic buying. 

SPAR Austria team members are delivering over and above what is usually required in a bid to provide Austrian consumers with some normalcy during these exceptional times. As a result, SPAR Austria is experiencing significantly higher levels of sick leave and absenteeism.

If, in addition to all the measures described above, stores were not allowed to sell part of the usual offer, this may lead to panic amongst customers. SPAR Austria is confident that in many cases, already stretched colleagues would have to enter into dialogue with shoppers about what can and cannot be purchased. 

“These discussions could finally end up in a situation where colleagues have exceeded their capacity”, explains Egon Karabacek, SPAR Central Works Council Chairman.

Closure of domestic suppliers
Many of the non-food products sold through SPAR Austria’s stores, especially fresh flowers and plants, are sourced locally. A ban on sales would massively damage these remaining functioning companies and result in a further increase in unemployment.

What do customers do nowadays if they can’t get a product for their daily needs immediately? They order it from online behemoths such as Amazon, which already has a large market share in many departments – in the toy area, this share is about 50%. The competitors here are not Austrian trading companies, but the dominant international online retailers, SPAR Austria notes. 

“We have observed this trend in our shopping centres for a long time”, said Marcus Wild, Managing Director of SES SPAR European Shopping Centres. “If we are no longer allowed to sell non-food products, we will finally drive the consumer into the arms of the international online giants who pay no taxes in Austria.” 

Business location weakened and exposure limit reached
SPAR is a domestic company that pays taxes in Austria and is currently shouldering additional financial expenses as a result of measures put in place to protect health and safety standards during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “The millions of masks that we are rapidly procuring on the world market at our own expense, the disinfectants, the gloves, instore signage, additional staff, all of this costs millions of euros. I can understand the concerns of the other traders, we are also traders, and we know what this situation means”, says Dr Gerhard Drexel, CEO at SPAR Austria.  

“But a sales ban placed on us would be of no use to anyone, not even the other traders. When viewed objectively, it would only further weaken Austria as a business location. Such a ban on selling non-food products would be completely incomprehensible and would exceed our exposure limit.”

Source: SPAR Austria 

About SPAR Austria

The origins of SPAR in Austria date back to 1954, but the current SPAR AG was created in 1970 when the original founding families joined with other regional wholesalers to form SPAR Austria AG – a 100% privately owned Austrian company.

With licences granted by SPAR International, ASPIAG (Austria SPAR International AG) has developed SPAR in Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, and Northern Italy.

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