Hockmeyer Motors Spar Sleaford has been crowned best Spar store in the Meridian & Welsh Guild.

Owners Rachael Hockmeyer and Christian Slingby were presented with the annual award – The Baldwin Tropy – at this year’s Blakemore Trade Partners SRS event in Telford, in recognition of their relentless focus on driving the business forward, and incredible commitment to the local community.

The event also celebrated Blakemore Trade Partners’ centenary.

A family-run business, Rachael and her husband Christian took over running the forecourt store in 2003. Since moving to Spar six years ago, Rachael and Christian haven’t stopped developing the business, including a refit of the store taking it from 997sq ft to 2,100sq ft and a forecourt refurbishment such as new LEDs and a car wash.

This year, they launched Spar’s food-to-go service, Daily Deli, into the store and made the bold decision to reduce space for ambient, cakes, biscuits and news & mags. They invested in 3.75m of chilled space to increase space for fresh meat, produce, ready meals and soft drinks.

This decision has seen sales of food to go increase by 8.7%, chilled by 20% and soft drinks by 15%. Snacks, including cakes and biscuits, have also risen by 11% - an amazing achievement across all these categories.

Neil Mercer, Blakemore Trade Partners sales director, said he was delighted that Rachael and Christian had been recognised for their fantastic achievements, and all their hard work.

“Hockmeyer Motors Spar Sleaford is a store right at the heart of its local community. The company gives a huge amount of raffle prizes and donations to numerous local organisations throughout the year. It also provides space for the diabetic screening unit and the mobile chemotherapy unit at the site.

“What’s more, they have been instrumental with the setup of Shock Sleaford to cover the whole of Sleaford with defibrillators – there are now 17 in the local area, including one at their own store,” he said.

“Everyone in the store makes a huge effort with customers – all of the 33 staff have carried out a thorough training programme, and it shows in how friendly and accommodating they are,” said Mercer.

“This was an extremely well-deserved win, and we are looking forward to seeing what’s next for the store,” he concluded.

The key message from this year’s Blakemore Trader Partners SRS was ‘Thinking customer first is the key to maximising Spar retailers’ sales’.

The event was attended by more than 1,100 guests, including 460 retailers from across Spar UK’s Meridian & Welsh Guild. Themed ‘The Customer at Heart’, the annual event encompassed a conference, trade show and Guild dinner; and focused on how Blakemore Trade Partners and its retailers can best prioritise the needs of the shopper.

Mercer explained: “Blakemore Trade Partners has always focused on a customer-first strategy, whether through store format development, category management or marketing activity.

“In an increasingly competitive environment, having the customer at the heart of our strategy will continue to deliver a unique and flexible store proposition as well as cementing our role in the communities within which Spar operates.”

At the conference, representatives from Blakemore Trade Partners and Spar retailers spoke about the importance of developing store formats to meet the needs of local audiences, product development in the award-winning SPAR Brand range and how the Blakemore Foundation can help retailers engage with their local communities.

Neil Mercer announced that the business has set aside £2 million for a new programme that will match-fund pound for pound retailers’ investment in store development.

Also announced at the show was the move to more hyperlocal marketing, with SPAR retailers now able to personalise promotions leaflets and point-of-sale materials, and also send SMS messages to customers within the vicinity of their stores.

The 2017 trade show saw more than 170 suppliers in attendance. An online ordering app provided retailers with instant access to more than 200 special offers.