Interview with Elona Mema, CEO Spar Albania
How is to run a company in the field of food retail trade in Albania?
The retail industry especially in the food sector is a dynamic and highly challenging industry. Managing an activity extending on more than 30 stores and 9 cities, trading a wide assortment of about 40,000 items, approaching a high number of clients around 30,000 clients/ day, undoubtedly requires high commitment and dedication. But the key to success, as I believe it is in any other company, lies in the creation of a team of professionals who work every day with the common mission to provide our customers with the best quality-price ratio through an excellent customer service.
There are about 500 colleagues currently working in SPAR Albania, with whom we each day share the challenge of improving our offer on our products and service and with the vision to quickly turn SPAR to customers in Albania (as in 48 other countries in world) the preferred network of food and non-food products.
Spar operating for a year now in Albania, has already been affirmed as the best-known brand for all. What did Spar bring to our market and what does it offer to the customer?
Networks organized in retail trade in the food industry occupy still a very small place in the food market in Albania. Based on statistics, their weight is no more than 15% of total food market and this indicates that in this industry, Albania is still in the early stages of development. Undoubtedly, a major problem lies in informality and unfair competition. There are still a high number of individuals trading in fruit-vegetables in the street, there are still a high number of shops that do not respect the minimum hygiene conditions, there are still a high number of shops that do not issue the tax coupon and do not pay the state. But certainly, as in the countries of the region, we anticipate that in the next 5 years there will be a rapid transition of the food market to the modern market of trade and based on these indicators we are working to position SPAR as Market Leader. SPAR is an international brand that is also present in 48 countries around the world. Under the exclusive franchise formula for the territory of Albania, and with the full support of the Balfin Group, part of which SPAR Albania is, a year ago we introduced to the Albanian customers the first network of Interspar / Hypermarket and SPAR / Supermarket . Being part of the big SPAR family all over the world gives us excellent access to get and represent international standards at all stages of our activity. Since the selection of SPAR products (about 3,000 items under the brand SPAR and Despar produced for consumers of countries such as Italy, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands), which are present in Albania, to the way of preserving, presenting and communicating in shop to make the shopping experience more beautiful. The values on which SPAR is emerging in Albania are the same as those that the SPAR brand enjoys for 85 years around the world: Excellent quality / price ratio, unique products and large range of choices for all customers for each budget, safe and certified products and an excellent client service. During the first year of operation, we have worked in increasing our customer’s satisfaction by offering not only diverse choices, food security, super offerings, but also reward schemes where customers have acquired car, home appliances, and free purchases. Also for 1 year we offer a very attractive loyalty scheme through the My SPAR card, which is given, free of charge to our customers and they can benefit every day for free gift vouchers, gifts and many other benefits. In less than 12 months we have reached a loyal customer base of 100,000 and this number is growing every day. It gives us great pleasure that in just 1 year, SPAR has created a high level of customer recognition. Based on a study conducted by the GFK International Agency, SPAR is the first customer-selected network for quality-price, product diversity and food security. As a team we are enthusiastic about these achievements and this certainly gives us more incentive to expand the activity in every city of Albania. Social Responsibility and Community Contribution is one of the SPAR brand values around the world. During this year in Albania SPAR has been part of several significant initiatives with donations of funds for families in need, volunteer work on community support, environment protection awareness. Our cooperation with World Vision in the “Hello” program and many other campaigns is certainly an indicator of the human values that Spar carries. We are very attentive to the easing of our customer’s livelihood in any direction. This contribution will continue to be strengthened in the future and we are planning concrete projects in this regard.
How does Spar operate with his partners? What is a SPAR Franchise?
SPAR was established 85 years ago on a simple and very effective idea, “We All Benefit from Joint Co-operation”. The brand’s mission has been consistent throughout this time and has been translated into the brand strategy of Better Together, by increasing its presence, sharing experiences with partners, enhancing brand recognition, and serving even better to the customers. Over this strategy, SPAR in Albania has also built a partnership model that underlies cooperation in common benefit. We have chosen local market enthusiasts who have the experience and above all have in their DNA as well as SPAR, the passion and desire to operate in this industry and to always offer their customers the best. In less than a year, we have opened around 15 stores under this model in various cities of Albania such as Shkodra, Vlora, Gjirokastra, Saranda, Pogradec, Korca and soon in Lezha. The practices and standards offered by SPAR in combining experience and knowing the specifics of each market in different cities of Albania by our partners make this model successful and this is confirmed by the results that existing stores have reflected under the SPAR model with an increase in their business up to 30-40%.This model is working very well and it is very positive that every day we get 10 requests from different entrepreneurs all over Albania to join our SPAR network.
What makes SPAR unique? Why do customers need to pick you from the other offers on the market?
Unique makes us the offer of a wide assortment of products, facilities and service comparable to international standards, providing food security and all these with the best price in the market without exacerbating the budget of our customers! We are aware that we are trading daily consumer products and this account for 40-50% of our customer’s income in Albania. Therefore we offer the best prices in the market but do not compromise on quality, safety and food safety. The rule “If you buy the same product cheaper, get the bill and SPAR reimburses you” is not a promise but a concrete mechanism that we will launch soon, guaranteeing to all our customers that our prices are the best on the market.
What will you offer to your customers on your first anniversary?
The 1st anniversary campaign was conceived as a True Holiday. We have selected hundreds of products from the most popular favourites to offer them with the Best Price of the Year. There will be activities, prize winning games, domestic tasting of local products, show cooking by well-known Chefs, children’s entertainment games, gift baskets and at this same year we will also promote a very attractive reward scheme for our customers who purchases during these 3 months until December 2018 will be able to take part in a lottery where the big prize is an Apartment in one of the best residences in Tirana! Isn’t it fantastic? Simply buying for example a Milka Chocolate in SPAR and you can be the winner of an Apartment.
By December SPAR has also planned very important campaigns to offer Super Offers to customers, the best products and prices, and many other reasons to choose SPAR.
What is the development plan that SPAR will follow?
If during 2017 our focus was on introducing and recognizing the brand SPAR for consumers, 2018 will be the Year of Activity Expansion. It is a great advantage to be part of the Largest Investment Group in Albania and among the largest in the region, the Balfin Group. Given the vision of the Group President Mr. Samir Mane, but also in the fact that Balfin Group has brought innovation in all areas where it has invested by applying the highest standards, we have developed a detailed expansion and investment plan for which we already started the work this year in identifying cities, areas and the format of shops that we will present to consumers throughout Albania. We plan to open at least 20 new stores where 10 of them will be under direct management and 10 under the partnership model. In the focus are the cities of Durres, Shkodra, Elbasan, Fier and Vlora and formats will be both hypermarkets and supermarkets. In addition to the expansion in 2018 we plan to bring innovation into introducing new products and services to our SPAR network for the first time in Albania, to improve the range of products, offer the most competitive prices in the market with the ultimate goal of serving our customers better and better! We also invite our customers to get acquainted with our products by visiting our website www.spar.al as well as our official Facebook profile where we continually publish our offers, and at the same time we are open for our customers’ feedback.