International C-store of the Year Honored

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International C-store of the Year Honored

NEW YORK-- SPAR China was named the first International Convenience Retailer of the Year in a new award program launched by United Kingdom-based Insight and NACS.

The award, sponsored by Imperial Tobacco and Airplay, was presented during the Insight NACS Future of International Convenience Retailing Event in London, Sept. 15, 2009.

In online voting by readers of Global Convenience Store Focus, SPAR China beat competition from Pick N Pay in South Africa, Ryan's Centra in Ireland and Sainsbury's Local in the U.K.

Judges had shortlisted the four retailers in the inaugural year of the award.

More than 2,250 readers exercised their vote and crowned SPAR China the overall winner. According to judges, SPAR's new convenience format in China took pole position by combining global retailing expertise with local know-how.

The SPAR Hongtu store in Dongguan City, Guangdong Province, is independently owned by the Hu family, hypermarket retailers from Dongguan. The Hu family began their business in 1992 with a 60-square-meter store and three employees; today they operate 26 hypermarkets with 300,000 square meters of selling space and employ 7,000 people.

The SPAR Hongtu store occupies 900 square meters and has a store layout designed around shopping missions with a strong emphasis on food-to-go. This area features an Italian coffee bar, Treehouse juice and smoothie bar, Kitsu noodles and Dim Sum to go.

SPAR has created a fresh market atmosphere in the store with a wide choice of pre-packed or loose produce and promotions across all fresh areas. To meet local needs, SPAR Hongtu sells fresh fish from fish tanks to enable customers to select their fish in a similar way to the traditional wet markets in China.

Technological enhancements go hand in hand with the improved product range. There is a wine scanner for information and meal suggestions, a self-ordering system, self-checkout, Wi-Fi internet access and self-serve weighing scales.

The average basket spend in hypermarkets in China is low as people shop often, especially for fresh items. SPAR provides fresh food and value on the doorstep and removes the need to travel to out-of-town hypermarkets. That helps time-pressed shoppers and introduces new categories and concepts too. The new concept store is growing sales and margin, and seeing an increase in the number of transactions on a monthly basis. The average basket spend is equivalent to 50 percent of basket spend in a hypermarket and on the opening day, 7,000 customer transactions were processed.

Customer service and facilities are further enhanced with a seating area at the front of the store and a customer loyalty program. Being different and innovating in a competitive retail environment is paying dividends for SPAR in China and success is spearheading future roll out.
Popular with judges, SPAR China impressed on a number of fronts. Joe Bona, president at CBX and a judge on this year's panel, said: "SPAR China was a No. 1 contender for the title, not just because it is such a category shift for that market but because it is really world class for any market."

Ramon Kuijpers, representing Award sponsor, Imperial Tobacco, also commented: "Through the award's sponsorship, and as an international partner in business, Imperial Tobacco is proud to support all convenience retailers who are trying to serve their shoppers' needs in the best possible way."

Read the full story in September's edition of Global Convenience Store Focus.

Insight is a U.K.-based international convenience and petroleum industry specialist and NACS Relationship Partner for Europe. Insight helps retailers benchmark their businesses against global best practice in the convenience retail trade.