Asia Briefing: Spars engage ideas in Ireland

A group of 23 delegates from Spar China, including chairman and founder Wang Peihuan, were in Ireland for the International Spar Congress last week and during their visit they met with several Spar Ireland suppliers to explore potential trading opportunities.

The retail sector is expanding strongly in China, as the government tries to boost domestic spending to offset slower growth in the export market.

Retail sales in China increased 12.8 per cent in April year-on-year, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.

The delegation met suppliers, including Cuisine de France, at its facility in Grange Castle, Dublin, and Irish food agencies to potentially source products for export to the Chinese franchise across categories such as seafood, baked goods and fresh meat.


Spar China is one of the region’s biggest importers of Irish pork, in a country that consumes more than 50 per cent of the world’s supply.

"We are particularly pleased to be in a position to make introductions to some of the highest quality food suppliers in the country," said Leo Crawford, president of Spar International and group chief executive of BWG Group, the operators of Spar Ireland.

“As an emerging market, with a burgeoning urban population, the Spar China franchise presents lucrative opportunities for Irish producers and suppliers to export their finest produce to one of the world’s most populous nations,” said Crawford.

Spar shops in China have already used some in-store concepts developed in Ireland.

In Dongguan, in Guangdong province, several stores used concepts modelled on the Barrow Street shop in Dublin, including the Treehouse Juice and Smoothie Bar and Kitsu Noodle bar.

Rapid expansion
Spar is to be found in seven Chinese regions – including Shandong, Guangdong, Shanxi, Beijing and Sichuan – and the group employs more than 30,000 people.

There are also four distribution centres. The shops work in two formats, either as neighbourhood supermarkets or as Spar hypermarkets.

Last year, store numbers increased by 40 to 215, with the total retail sales area exceeding 815,000sq m, and Spar International predicts that rapid expansion is likely to continue in China this year on the back of the expanding urban population.

This year the group hopes to open another 40 new stores and is targeting sales of €1.4 billion, as well as a new distribution centre in Shanxi province.

A total of 270 delegates from 34 countries across the world were in Ireland for the congress, which was being hosted by Spar Ireland to coincide with the brand’s 50th anniversary in the country. The conference was held in Dublin and Kerry.

Spar International serves about 10 million customers daily at more than 12,000 stores. It is headed by Ireland's Gordon Campbell and has a turnover of €32 billion.