A guide to achieving successful retail expansion based on the strategies used by the international grocery giant SPAR.
Did you know that the majority of shoppers in Albania now consider SPAR their first choice for grocery shopping?
This was confirmed in a 2023 research study, where an impressive 92% of consumers said that they believe SPAR provides all the products they need. This is a great achievement considering that the country is still dominated by local, family-run grocery stores, making up 65% of the total market share. However, since 2016 when SPAR entered the scene, consumer behavior shifted, and shoppers are now increasingly favoring larger grocery brands.
So, how did SPAR manage to capture the hearts of shoppers and forever transform the grocery market in Albania?
To get the answers, we spoke with Elona Hametaj, CEO of Spar Albania, and identified 7 business strategies that were the keys to their success:
1. Teaming up with the Right Franchise Partner
SPAR entered Albania in 2016 through a licensing agreement with Almark, part of Balfin Group.
As one of the most important and successful investment groups in Albania and the whole Western Balkans region, Balfin Group was a natural choice for SPAR. With Almark already operating a chain of 18 Carrefour stores across the country, SPAR easily entered the market. Their initial move involved renovating and rebranding their existing stores, coupled with the retraining of 460 staff members.
This strategic approach laid the foundation for SPAR’s strong market entrance and further growth.
2. Expanding the Store Network
SPAR swiftly expanded its network and marked a significant milestone with the opening of its 80th store in September 2023.
The brand expands in two store formats, INTERSPAR Hypermarkets of approx. 4.500 m2, and SPAR Supermarkets of approx. 430 m2. The large Hypermarkets act as one-stop-shops for customers, while the smaller Supermarkets strategically located in urban and rural areas provide convenience. In total SPAR retail network in Albania today caters to 60,000 customers daily across 16 districts.
Elona Hametaj has confirmed that SPAR is committed to ongoing expansion, with plans to open 12 new stores and remodel four existing ones in 2024.
3. Introducing its Own Branded Products to the Market
SPAR set itself apart in the market through its expansive array of own-branded products
The chain introduced approximately 2,000 private-label items to Albania mainly imported from Italy and the Netherlands, which received a very positive response from consumers. The remarkable success of the private label has prompted the company to embark on a strategic plan to further expand its assortment in the next three years. This initiative aims to cater to consumers who, due to high inflation are seeking ways to save on food and home goods expenses.
Own branded labels are what sets SPAR apart from its local and international competitors in Albania, as they offer comparable quality but at competitive prices.
4. Using Data to Improve In-Store Experiences
SPAR’s unique focus on in-store experiences further differentiates the grocery chain from local, family-run competitors.
The company launched a “Tell Us First” campaign, encouraging shoppers to provide valuable feedback. By actively collecting and analyzing data, SPAR continuously refines its operations and offerings, precisely catering to the evolving needs and preferences of its shoppers. This data-driven approach is the secret to their success, allowing SPAR to stay agile and consistently enhance the overall shopping experience.
As a result, they have not only captured the hearts of shoppers but have set a new standard for personalized and customer-centric retailing in Albania.
“We boast a highly organized customer service that excels in terms of staffing, ensuring a sufficient number of personnel is at customers’ disposal to address their needs and resolve any issues. Our technology is consistently trained and updated to stay current with Spar’s offers and services”, says Elona Hametaj.
5. Building Strong Brand Awareness
SPAR has successfully created strong brand awareness in Albania, attributing its success to a comprehensive 360° multi-channel communication strategy.
Recognizing the significance of keeping shoppers informed, the grocery giant consistently shares details about its extensive product offerings, exclusive discounts, and impactful local community initiatives. This communication approach spans across various channels, including traditional media like TV and catalogs, as well as social media and personalized communication.
“SPAR has a very well-structured loyalty schema supported by the latest technology that allows us to customize offers & communication based on individual consumer prefrences and behavior”, says Elona Hametaj.
6. Introducing Digital Innovations
SPAR Albania has introduced many digital innovations to enhance the grocery shopping experience in the country.
This includes the successful launch of an online shopping platform, which features over 2,500 products and offers hundreds of daily discounts. Additionally, they have implemented a scan-and-go service in their physical stores and integrated in November 2023 self-checkout technology. Their digital success is best seen through their Happy Card Loyalty program, which currently has over 500,000 members.
These technological advancements underscore SPAR’s commitment to leading in retail technology, which is ultimately transforming consumer behavior.
7. Investing in the Community
SPAR Albania is also committed to giving back to the community and this is evident through its active participation in various charities and environmental initiatives.
As part of the International “SPAR One Tree Planted” campaign, SPAR Albania planted 50 Tilia trees in the capital city of Tirana. Additionally, the company has maintained a collaborative partnership with World Vision for the “Tungjatjeta Jete” (Hello Life) initiative for six years. For every bottle of SPAR water sold, the company contributes 5 cents to the project, supporting children with disabilities through therapy in remote areas of Albania.
In 2023 alone, a total of 5,656 sessions of physiotherapy, speech therapy, and developmental therapy were provided to 123 children through the program.
In conclusion, the success of SPAR in transforming the grocery market in Albania lies in a strategic blend of key initiatives, from collaborating with the right franchise partner and expanding the store network to introducing own-branded products and leveraging data-driven insights for a personalized shopping experience.
SPAR’s commitment to building strong brand awareness, embracing digital innovations, and investing in the community further solidifies its position as a leader in the Albanian retail landscape.
For more information about SPAR Albania visit: spar.al