SPAR Zambia: Making inroads into Africa’s retail landscape

In recent years Southern Africa has seen a sharp increase in the footprint of major retailers. Whilst South Africa in particular has helped to lead this revolution, its neighbouring countries are now starting to see big names arrive. SPAR Zambia first entered the Zambian market in 2003 and has continued to grow its presence.

SPAR Zambia Ltd is a joint venture established between Innscor International of Zimbabwe and Platinum Gold Zambia Ltd. The company was registered in 2003 and commenced trading in December of that year with the first store at Arcades Shopping Centre, in Lusaka.

zam_spar-country-photosA SPAR Distribution Centre was also opened; reinforcing the relationship with suppliers and cementing SPAR Zambia’s place as a leading retailer in this market. This development, combined with a strong relationship with SPAR South Africa (SPAR International’s second largest business), in particular the North Rand Distribution Centre, gave SPAR the perfect platform from which to increase its market share.

By 2011 SPAR International had opened its eighth Zambian store in Chipata and had an ambitious programme to operate 30 outlets across the country by 2015, with a market share of 40 per cent. The Chipata franchise was opened in partnership with a local family and follows a common trend with SPAR International stores in utilising local services and supplies – effectively becoming a local store for local people.

SPAR Zambia rolled out the franchise store concept in 2010. This was successful with two existing company owned store being converted to franchise stores. The Chipata store opening was one of a number of such ventures that the company embarked on during 2011.

SPAR International is of course instantly recognisable, with an iconic logo recognised around the world. Last year saw the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the SPAR partnership in Holland, in 1932 by Adriaan van Well.

This year sees the 50th anniversary of SPAR International’s launch into South Africa and the creation of SPAR South Africa. This has been significant as SPAR South Africa has played an active role in helping to establish the global business across the sub-Saharan region, including Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Speaking a couple of years ago, Mike Yeatman, CEO of SPAR Zambia, explained how the grocery retail market was still in its relative infancy, with Shoprite dominating over the past 20 odd years.

Yeatman explained how the market place was gradually beginning to change, with the arrival of both SPAR Zambia and Pick n Pay, while the overall market continued to be dominated by small shops, offering plenty of scope for the bigger supermarket players.

SPAR International supports each territory and in Zambia the organisation has sought to enhance the retail experience through its ‘Passion for Food’ initiative – delivering quality and service and widening the international choice of products available to the consumer through collaboration with other SPAR countries including neighbouring South Africa, Holland and the UK. The first private label ranges arrived in Zambia in 2011.

However, SPAR remains very much an organisation of smaller, independent retailers and wholesalers, with each individual country running its own affairs, whilst reporting in to the corporate headquarters in Holland. SPAR International underlines this approach with its statement that “Partnership remains at the core of our continued success. The SPAR global partnership encompasses over 12,000 retail stores in 35 countries on 4 continents.

Perhaps that is the enduring secret to SPAR’s continued success? The company’s composition is always based around local customs and produce and of course this helps to stimulate job creation and the local economy, whilst the business is also able to call upon the technical expertise of the wider global group.

The continued growth of course creates further employment opportunities – and whilst finding people with the right skills is not always straight forward, employees are put through an in-house training course and SPAR Zambia receives ongoing technical support both from South Africa and SPAR International.

Globally, SPAR International has launched a new ‘Growing our Future Together’ strategy, described in its latest annual report:

The new SPAR International strategy was developed at the request of the International Board. Following discussion at a number of meetings, the Strategy was approved at the December 2012 Board meeting and presented at the International SPAR Guild Executive meeting in March 2013.

This new strategy builds on and develops the long term objectives of SPAR International. SPAR has demonstrated a flexibility and openness to new ideas from its earliest days, and our mission remains to facilitate the implementation of best practice in all areas of operations.

The third important mission of SPAR International is to protect the SPAR Brand and trademarks and to develop its international recognition and reputation. ‘Growing our Future Together’ sets out the strategic objectives of SPAR for 2013-2015 under three broad headings; Growing our Partners, Growing our Presence and Growing our Brand.

Under ‘Growing our Partners’ the SPAR International strategy focuses on the implementation of best international practice through the free exchange of information and know-how within the SPAR network.

“The multi-format retail strategy is constantly updated through the flagship store programme which involved 25 SPAR countries over the last decade.

Under ‘Growing our Presence’ international expansion remains a key strategic mission of SPAR International. We seek to work with local partners who have the vision and capability of providing modern food retailing in their local market and who subscribe to the SPAR retailing principles.

The recruitment of new partners has enabled SPAR International to provide additional support services to members especially in the areas of format development, flagship stores, new product categories, distribution centres and technological innovation. The new partners have added life and vitality to the worldwide SPAR organisation”.

The first SPAR Express store was opened last year, offering convenient shopping to local customers. This new format provides the best quality fresh produce at affordable prices with great customer service.

An expansion plan has been rolled out in the Copperbelt, with the opening of a number of new stores and according to the annual report: “Future plans include the development of at least 5 more stores in 2013. There is a continued focus on sourcing SPAR Private Label ranges, which have become key products and feature prominently on promotional leaflets.”