Acting positive, not just thinking positive is the key to success

Independent convenience retail

My colleagues Caroline Cronin, Kate Daw and their team organised a fantastic Local Shop Summit in Birmingham last week and for me the high point was three videos showcasing three great local shops.

On the day, the three owners Roli Ranger, Bintesh Amin and Paul Cheema may have felt a little unsure about sharing their achievements at an event billed: How to be Brilliant.

While best-selling author Michael Heppell had advised the 250 plus retailers present that being good was no longer good enough and to become brilliant you needed to study people who were successful, some retailers were unhappy with our choice of brilliant shops.

Not that the shops were poor. Just that they were convenience stores and in particular symbol group members. And again, not that the retailers had anything against c-stores or symbol group members. Just that they assumed Roli, Bintesh and Paul had an edge because of the badge over their door and the extra support suppliers gave them.

Later, one independent retailer thanked me for the event and told me it would have been better if one of the three videos had been of an unaffiliated independent shop. I think he has made a good point. My team asked Roli, Bintesh and Paul to get involved not because they are in symbol groups but because they are constantly working with suppliers – and us – on trying new things. Their shops are constantly changing to meet the needs of their local shoppers.

The key point is that their shops are successful because of who they are: brilliant retailers. They are probably in symbol groups because they understand Mr Heppell’s point about working in mastermind groups, finding great business people and working with them.

Mind your language, Mr Heppell’s aunt used to tell him. You become what you say you are. If you project negative, you get negative. A good question would have been to ask how much of their success was down to signing up to a symbol group and how much was down to their own efforts.

I suspect that in the early days, symbol group membership taught them retail disciplines and gave them access to good ideas and best practice. But long ago, Roli, Bintesh and Paul moved beyond this. You can see it in their shops. You can see it in the faces of their staff. You can see it in the faces of their shoppers.

There is an assumption that suppliers give to some and not to others. Perhaps there is an element of truth in this. Poor suppliers often give a better deal to loud customers in the hope that if they keep them quiet they don’t have to change how they operate.  But in the convenience market, if you operate like this you will be found out. You will be found out because Tesco, Sainsbury or Waitrose will open up near you so that your shoppers can walk to their stores.

The purpose of the Local Shop Summit is to help independent retailers get better. The secret of getting better is your individual leadership. You will never negotiate a better deal than Tesco, but if you have the right vision you can win the loyalty of your shoppers. Choose to be brilliant!

Nick Shanagher
Sharing good ideas between enterprising independent retailers is the main driver of betterRetailing. With 20 years’ experience of covering retail markets, Nick helps shopkeepers of all sizes to think about what questions are important for themselves and their businesses, and to find answers that work in their shops. Nick can be found on Twitter at @NickShanagher



  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this years Local Shop Summit and I think the choice of stores that were profiled was excellent. Yes the point about including an independent not affiliated to a group is justified, but for me the point is seeing professional operations with great standards. I dont want to see a poor standards of layout ,hygine,product selection, staff etc. That does not inspire me. When I see operaters like those guys that does inspire me.



  2. Yes I too thoroughly enjoyed the summit. It was broken down to 3 elements a speaker telling you what to do – retailers who actually got out of their back seat and did something about the businesses they aquired and some suppliers who are willing to help.
    I find most suppliers now want to work with you. In the past returning unsaleable goods were unheard of but now the suppliers are also willing to help and get the right stock and increase business – you just have to ask!
    Well done the whole team!

    • Hi Nalin, Thank you for the analysis. As a team we are thinking hard about how we may improve the event for next year and your feedback is brilliant. Nick

  3. To make the best of your stores get out of your stores and go to these networking events. Even if you come back with one idea or even one supplier that is willing to work you you have gained knowledge for your time spent away.

    • Hi Paul, I know you have said this before and visiting other stores is one of your mantra. I am off to Wigan and Manchester to meet two retailers and see four shops tomorrow. You always come back with some brilliant ideas. Nick

  4. Evolving is the key word. Retailing is a dynamic trade and markets as well as customer expectations are always changing. To ignore this is a recipe for disaster……one has to move and adapt . Our share of the pie is getting smaller which makes it even more important to fight for every customer. Contrary to a few retailers who took the ‘us v the symbols’ approach, the majority of feedback I received was very positive. One retailer at the conference has already contacted me to see how he too can grow his business and will visit my store in the near future. My door, as always , is open to any retailer who wishes to come visit and exchange ideas.

    • Hi Roli, I showed your video to some of my business friends last week: software developers and the like. One, who runs upmarket foodservice establishments, said at the end: “Fantastic local shop, are all of your customers like this?” Brilliant feedback. My answer: “One day…but then Roli will be in a different, better place too!” Thank you for your feedback and your offer to retailers to let them visit. Nick