Spar's UK boss: “You don’t have to have all the answers”

Spar UK’s managing director Louise Hoste talks to MT about the retail challenges of Covid and developing her self-confidence as a leader.

by Éilis Cronin
Louise Hoste

The beginning of the pandemic was a precarious time for many UK businesses, but there was one market that thrived. The convenience sector was about to enter one of its busiest periods on record as many shoppers turned to their local stores for their daily essentials, rather than making precarious trips to larger, busier supermarkets. The timing could not have been more perfect for Louise Hoste, who was just getting stuck into her new role as managing director of Spar UK, the country’s biggest independent convenience store franchise.

Resilient market

Spar, like its peers, had to rapidly adapt to serve the changing needs of its customers. Many shops had to set up home-delivery services while others provided emergency numbers so shoppers could check what was in stock. Spar also changed its own ranges and pack sizes; once a go-to destination for all things on the go, the convenience sector had to allow more space for larger take-home packs of soft drinks, crisps, snacks and confectionery.

The changes worked. The sector reported £44.7bn in total value sales at the end of 2020 – up from £40.3bn in 2019. It also managed to maintain its 20% share of the grocery sector. Of course, there were challenges. Manufacturers often prioritised pack sizes for supermarkets, while there was a heavy decline in the food-to-go market, which had been hotly tipped to be the biggest trend of 2020.

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