Back in the Market

Spar Dalbeattie

Spar Scotland has opened its first company-owned store in five years under its new ‘Spar Market’ format with a major focus on fresh.

By Antony Begley

The last few years have seen a remarkable transformation in fortunes for the Spar Scotland brand under the stewardship of CEO Colin McLean and his much-changed senior management team as the 102-year-old business continues to re-establish its position as the largest Scottish convenience wholesaler and retailer. The latest step on that journey sees the business open its first company-owned store in five years.

Having offloaded a number of under-performing stores, Spar Scotland now seems to be back in the acquisition game, this time with a much clearer focus on stores that can deliver on all the fronts that matter.

Spar Dalbeattie in Dumfriesshire is the first store in Scotland to open under the new Spar Market format and the first new company-owned store of any description since way back in 2017.

Formerly a third-generation family run convenience store trading as Kinnaird’s Nisa Local, the new Spar Market store is hailed by the company as “the first of its kind in Scotland” and marks a step-change in Spar’s fresh food and produce offering.

The Dalbeattie store has a very strong focus on fresh fruit and vegetables and chilled foods, aiming to cater for key shopping missions like ‘making a meal’ and ‘grab and eat’ – and is already making a name for itself in the Spar company-owned portfolio, as Colin McLean told SLR: “This is a very big deal for Spar Scotland and the creation of the Spar Market brand marks an important development for us. Spar Dalbeattie only opened a week ago and in its first week it became our number one store in the entire company-owned portfolio for fresh produce. That’s no mean feat considering we have 107 stores!”

Spar Dalbeattie deli and bakery counter

The new store was officially opened on Friday 22 April with an in-store launch event hosted by store manager Marie McMinn and her team. A proudly community-focused store, every member of the team that works at the store lives locally.

The launch event saw customers take the opportunity to pick up free goody bags, spin the wheel to win prizes, and to sample some treats. The event also saw two local organisations – Alma McFayden Care Home and Dalbeattie Playgroup – receive donations of £1,000 each from Spar Scotland.

Spar Scotland’s long-standing commitment to locally sourced products is reflected in the store’s range with many local suppliers featured at the large deli counter and in the fresh produce fixture. These include Irving’s Bakery, Mitchells of Castle Douglas, Irthingvale Wholesale, Lockerbie Cheddars and Galloway Preserves to name but a few.

Spar Dalbeattie also features a CJ’s food-to-go counter for customers looking for a food on-the-go offer. The CJ’s counter offers ready-to-eat hot breakfast rolls throughout the morning and extends into the evening with a selection of hot food.

This is complemented by a range from award-winning craft Scottish baker Browning’s, offering a wide selection of bakery products, morning goods and cakes.

A self-serve Costa Express coffee machine, Tango Ice Blast and frozen Calippo slush machine tap into the current trend for premium on-the-go drinks.

Spar Dalbeattie fresh display

Spar Scotland Company-Owned Stores Operations Director Brian Straiton commented: “We are delighted to have acquired the Kinnaird’s store. We have acquired a successful family-run business and recognise all the great work that James Kinnaird and his team have undertaken in the local community over many years.

“We are very excited to be back in the property market to acquire new convenience stores as part of our business strategy of adding an additional three to four stores per year to our company-owned estate.

“Spar Market is an exciting new fresh, chilled and produce store format for Spar Scotland that will really help to differentiate and grow from our traditional Spar customer offer.

“As a genuinely Scottish family business we share many similar values with the Kinnaird family. We want to maintain all the great work that they have done, and build upon these, whilst adding additional Spar Scotland products and services to the store.”

The store’s existing home shopping delivery service will continue and will be bolstered with the introduction of the Snappy Shopper platform and app.

McLean told SLR: “Dalbeattie really showcases Spar at its best. The team did a fantastic job getting it ready and it’s flying. It’s our first new company-owned store since 2017 and it marks a new direction for us. We announced record investment levels last year and we’re in the process of refitting the company-owned store portfolio with a few stores nearing completion and due to come online in the next week or two, including Gatehouse of Fleet.

“We’re actively looking for new company-owned stores and expect to grow the portfolio significantly over the coming year or two – but we’re looking for the right stores in the right locations. When we find them, we have the funds to invest – and we’re also heavily focused on recruiting independent stores to the Spar group too. It’s an exciting time to be part of Spar Scotland, it really is.”