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SPAR Netherlands evolving response to COVID-19

April 3, 2020 IN THE CATEGORY: COVID-19

With a focus on providing convenience solutions to customers, SPAR Netherlands has spread its footprint, now operating over 300 stores in city centres, neighbourhoods, university campuses and over 150 SPAR Express stores on petrol forecourts.

Challenges have been faced by each store type as legislative changes and recommendations for the food retail sector have come into effect. Already on March 13, the independent retailer running stores on university campuses had to make the tough decision to close his stores as universities shut their doors. Fellow retailers could tap into the pool of skilled colleagues to supplement their own teams whilst a website encouraging volunteering to support any business in need was established by the retailer.

Throughout the country, independent SPAR retailers adopted preventive measures immediately and a comprehensive communication campaign informing customers of changes was rolled out. As customer demands shifted to the current status of many people working from home, the preparation of fresh ready to consume products was adapted where necessary, making items on demand and prepacking freshly squeezed orange juice, reducing contact points. SPAR Express forecourt stores have seen fewer customers stopping for fuel but have seen greater demand from customers for fresh products as people seek to avoid busy supermarkets.

Well positioned to operate on a cashless basis through its early adoption of mobile payment solutions, SPAR Netherlands retailers shared best practice with others for whom this wasn’t commonplace. Another strength is the successful eCommerce solution which has been in place for some time, whereby independent SPAR retailers manage their own platform, tailored to their local market. SPAR Netherlands has temporarily lifted the delivery charge and retailers are adapting to the surge in demand of almost 300% from customers not wishing or not able to leave their homes.

Speaking recently to a Dutch retail publication, SPAR Netherlands CEO John van der Ent explained that the learnings from SPAR Partners in China and Italy were instrumental in helping them be prepared and responsive to the corona virus outbreak. He also reflected that the shift last year to a semi-automated warehouse has been instrumental in meeting the increased replenishment levels, having reached capacity in distribution already in the second week of lock-down whereas forecasts showed that capacity would only be reached in 2024!

Source: SPAR Netherlands

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About SPAR Netherlands

The SPAR Brand was founded in the Netherlands in 1932 by the Dutch wholesaler, Adriaan van Well and 16 independent retailers. It was established as a voluntary chain of grocers under the name DESPAR – an acronym of a slogan created by van Well to describe the organisation: Door Eendrachtig Samenwerken Profiteren Allen Regelmatig, which translates in English to All benefit from joint co-operation. By the end of the 1950s, SPAR was the largest food organisation in the Netherlands.

Today, SPAR Netherlands is a private company, owned by Sligro (45%), Sperwer (45%) and the SPAR independent retailers (10%). The Head Office and Distribution Centre (DC) are located in Waalwijk, from where support is provided for the 450 stores in operation.