Shoppers at a Spar outlet in Rustenburg, North West. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Shoppers at a Spar outlet in Rustenburg, North West. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

VENTURING into Switzerland was a major coup for the Spar group, CEO Graham O’Connor said on Friday, adding that he had turned down deals in two other geographies, having chosen the developed market, which was "an exceptional fit".

Mr O’Connor said Spar’s market had become saturated in SA, and the group had decided to roll out a relatively large international expansion.

Last week, Spar concluded an agreement to acquire 60% of the ordinary shares of Spar Holding, also known as Spar Switzerland, for Sf44.5m on April 1. The agreement also gives Spar the right to buy the remaining 40% of the company after five years for Sf6.3m.

This is Spar’s second investment in Europe.

The group bought BWG in Ireland in 2014. Mr O’Connor said this had been successful surprisingly quickly.

"We felt that we needed to expand our footprint and right now developed markets offer the best value.

"We also fit nicely with markets like Ireland, and Switzerland. English is spoken in Ireland and the customer is similar. In Switzerland, there is also a strong business culture fit.

"People at a corporate level there also speak English and we can share know-how and strategies," Mr O’Connor said.

Mr O’Connor said the South African consumer was coming under pressure from rising administrative and other prices. Spar outlets were seeing less spending, and the group would, therefore, benefit from consumers with a growing disposable income abroad.

The Spar Switzerland group supplies a range of food and beverage products to consumers through a combination of 58 company-owned Spar, Spar Express and convenience stores, 247 independent retailer stores trading under the Spar, Spar Express and Maxi brands, and 11 company-owned Cash & Carry outlets trading under the brand TopCC.

Spar has been operating in Southern Africa for more than five decades. Spar Switzerland is the operator and holder of the Spar licence in Switzerland and has been a member of Spar International since 1989.

The Spar group operates six distribution centres and one Build It distribution centre that supply and service 1,935 independently owned Spar stores domestically and in a number of countries in the rest of Africa.