How to work with local officials and build strong relationships with community leaders

The betterRetailing finds out how retailers can contact local leaders and maintain strong and constructive relationships

How to work with local officials and build strong community relationships

Local officials have the power to make changes and also often know about bigger changes to planning, regulations or legislation before other people. They are therefore usually among the best-placed people to offer official advice for retailers. 

As a result, having a strong relationship with these people can serve to lend a convenience store a louder voice. 

While any official is a useful contact to have, whether it’s local councillors or planning inspectors, Jason Birks, from Moscis Convenience Store in Peterlee, County Durham and The Fed's national president, believes local MPs and police and crime commissioners are the two most useful people to have in your phonebook. 

Making that initial contact is the first important step. Ian Lewis, from Spar Minster Lovell in Witney, Oxfordshire, has a unique access point to his local councillor because he used to work in his store, but most retailers will need to resort to more traditional methods, whether that’s through an email, a letter, a phone call or a face-to-face meeting. 

It is also important to recognise a certain level of quid pro quo when it comes to officials. If you are coming to them with positive news, reassurances and opportunities, rather than a constant litany of complaints, then your voice is more likely to be heard when there is a pressing issue you need addressed. 

“It’s about building up this symbiotic relationship that you’re achieving something and the end goal is realising we can work together,” says Vince Malone, from Tenby Stores & Post Office in Pembrokeshire. “We’ve not had any issues whereby we’ve had to go complaining about something, it’s more about us identifying where there are gaps in the market and where can we help.” 

And while a lack of response can be frustrating and demoralising, maintaining a consistent stream of information does help to build a clearer picture for officials and also builds pressure on them to act accordingly. 

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