OPINION: Get out there and network – Natalie Lightfoot, Londis Solo Convenience, Baillieston, Glasgow

'It’s been amazing to share and use our experiences to support one another and provide a support network for future female retailers'

Women in Convenience 2022

I’ve been working in this industry for 16 years and I’ve been lucky to have my husband working with me for the past six years as well. I love so many aspects of working in the shop, but there’s something really unique about our industry. We can share what we do with other retailers, and while we’re sharing, we’re also learning from and helping other people. There’s something really rewarding in having those open conversations.

Just working with retailers and then going to the other side of the business to talk with wholesalers, manufacturers and brands has been so enriching. It’s like being a student going into a university library. You learn different things and get access to products faster. You get and can give feedback because there are always lots of knowledge gaps about how our industry works. A lot of manufacturers will only think about how many units they sell to wholesalers, but the data we can provide as independents – where we can see how long it takes to turn over product and its true success – is so valuable. When you’re working with suppliers, it’s so useful to have that honest conversation with them and then they can be more responsive.

In the past year, I’ve been heavily involved with Women in Convenience, and it has been so valuable personally because not only was I able to see and learn about things, but it’s created another community for me. In the first 10 years I was working in retail, I thought I was on my own – I was independent and feisty. But as soon as I started with Londis, I met all these other retailers and that had a big impact on me. Seven years later, and I now have this whole other network of male and female retailers. It’s been amazing to share and use our experiences to support one another and provide a support network for future female retailers, including the daughters and nieces of a lot of male retailers.

Anyone who’s new or experienced in the industry, there’s lots of benefits to networking. You’re not just giving away secrets, you’re working with other retailers, suppliers and manufacturers, and gaining little nuggets that will enrich your business.

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