David Sands Group joins SPAR Scotland

David Sands Group, which owns David’s Kitchen and Pinkie Farm convenience stores, has left Nisa to join SPAR Scotland.

News of the coup was announced by Colin McLean, CEO of SPAR Scotland’s wholesaler and retailer CJ Lang & Son, at the company’s Tradeshow in Aviemore yesterday (22 September).

David’s Kitchen has three existing stores – in Glenrothes, Falkirk and Kirkcaldy – and a fourth is currently being built in Bo’ness. The Pinkie Farm store is in Musselburgh.

Commenting on the development, McLean said: “It is great news to have such a high-profile convenience store group join us. David and his colleagues have built a hugely successful award-winning business, and their growth has been very impressive over the years. We are delighted that David and his team have decided to continue the next part of their journey with SPAR Scotland.”

McLean added: “Given the changes in the symbol group market over the past few days, we recognise the sizeable commercial opportunity and are well placed to take advantage of this. We’re turning heads. We’ve got the value, we’ve got the range, we’ve got the proposition, we know where we’re taking this business, and we’re very clear about how to use all that to recruit people.”

The 800 delegates that attended the Tradeshow also heard that CJ Lang achieved strong growth in the year to the end of April 2022. The results are to be announced formally in the next couple of weeks. “The business is certainly moving in the right direction,” commented McLean. “Profits protect jobs, and we have a robust financial platform to build upon. We have better business alignment and greater consistency, we’re modernising the SPAR Scotland brand, and we have now secured additional investment to take the business forward.”

Colin McLean: ‘We’re going to help our customers through these tough times.’

However, he added, the Ukraine war has led to considerable challenges including high levels of inflation and a cost-of-living crisis. “We’re going to help our customers through these tough times,” McLean promised. “We’re putting together some strong deals, we’re back on TV – there’s no other symbol group in Scotland on TV as frequently as us – and we’ve got great stuff coming with the SPAR brand.”

CJ Lang recently launched a value campaign featuring bread and six-packs of eggs at £1 each and two-litre bottles of milk at a ‘multiple-matching’ £1.27. The campaign is being supported with instore PoS and radio coverage, as well as social media activity. “We’re bringing the ‘value on your doorstep’ message to life in our stores, with lots more to come,” said trading director Richard Collins.

For example, CJ Lang is supporting the SPAR Brand Spotlight initiative, which has the theme ‘Our Best For Less’. This involves putting 125 of the bestselling SPAR Brand lines into all SPAR stores in Scotland by mid-January. “This is the single biggest focus on the SPAR Brand for many years,” he reported.

Collins asked suppliers to help SPAR Scotland enhance its value proposition: “Offer EDLP [every day low pricing] on key lines rather than go down the high-low route, protect our availability, and supply price-marked packs on at least the same terms as plain packs,” he urged. “SPAR Scotland is also the place to come if you want to get your NPD off to a flying start. We’re hungry for anything that will stimulate sales and category growth.”

Steve Irons, wholesale sales director at CJ Lang, told delegates that SPAR Scotland compares its pricing with Booker’s and Nisa’s every week. “Our results are good,” he said, “and we need to land that message and change perception that we’re expensive because it’s not the case.”

At the same time as boosting value for shoppers, CJ Lang is aiming to increase retailers’ average margin from 20% to 30% by driving more profitable product categories, including vape, which offers margins of over 40%, and food to go, which can generate margins of over 35%, said Irons. SPAR Scotland includes around 200 stores run by independent retailers and 100 stores owned by CJ Lang itself.

CJ Lang’s conversion of the former Nisa store in Dalbeattie has put two percentage points on the store’s margin.

Some of the improvements, such as new refrigeration and the introduction of CJ’s food-to-go concept, that CJ Lang has made to its estate over the past year are being used to showcase SPAR Scotland’s offer to independent retailers.

In addition, the company is keen to highlight the successful development of the former Nisa store at Dalbeattie, near Dumfries, under the SPAR Scotland banner. “This was a top 20 performing Nisa store and we have put two percentage points on its margin without changing the format,” said McLean. “This was our first company store acquisition in many years and the exciting news is that we have more company-owned stores to follow.”

He concluded: “We’re not complacent. We recognise we’ve got more to do. The beauty about being a family business is that we can take sensible long-term decisions to move the business forward. Yes, there’s a recession going to happen at any moment, but the reality is that we’re having discussions about what to do between now and 2030. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”


Free SalesTrack data for suppliers

CJ Lang & Son is offering all of its suppliers free access to SPAR Scotland’s SalesTrack data from 1 January 2023. The service, which is run in partnership with TWC, allows suppliers to dig deeper into category performance through wholesale shipment data and company-owned retail sales data.

“We want to be data led and we want you on our journey,” CJ Lang’s trading director Richard Collins told supplier delegates at the company’s Tradeshow. “Data is a key enabler and we have plenty to share with you.”

CJ Lang is also introducing e-bate, a price and margin management platform to enable suppliers to track activity on their products.


Availability issues

SPAR Scotland’s inbound availability over the last 17 weeks was just 92%, reported trading director Richard Collins. “It’s not good,” he said. “In fact, the figures would be a whole lot worse if I stripped out the likes of tobacco and fresh milk for which we always get 100% availability from our suppliers.”

Addressing suppliers directly, he added: “We need you to make this your number one area of focus because we must add at least 4% to these current availability levels. It’s not only product shortages; late deliveries are compounding the situation.

“It will be lost sales and profits for us all and potentially lost customers for good if we cannot provide customers with what they want, when they want it and at a price they are prepared to pay. We are convenience retailers after all. Availability and reliability are not options; they are demanded.”

He added: “These availability challenges are partly fuelled by us not providing forecasts. We are fully aware of this and we are determined to sort it.”

In the latest Advantage Group survey, suppliers rated SPAR Scotland second out of 11 wholesalers – a rise from ninth place three years ago. “Now we’re aiming to be No.1,” said Collins.


Back haul service

CJ Lang is promoting its back haul service to suppliers. Once delivery drivers have completed all their drops to SPAR Scotland stores, they can collect products from suppliers on the way back to CJ Lang’s distribution centre in Dundee, ready for onward despatch to retail stores.

“This service maximises utilisation of our return leg journeys, taking road miles out of the supply chain,” explained distribution director Colin Chapman. About 20 suppliers, including Angus Soft Fruits and Total Produce, are currently taking advantage of the service.


SPAR Scotland customers in numbers

25% are ‘everyday elderlies’

30% are single mums

16% are ‘family feeders’

45% are searching for value

86% are looking for increased digital activity

£3 to £6 is the typical basket spend

£20,000 is the typical average annual income of a SPAR Scotland shopper

Published Date: September 23, 2022
Category: Wholesale Industry News