More than 90 of the UK’s top independent retailers took part in the Local Shop Summit in Manchester earlier this month. This is the fourth year that we have run this event and we had a completely new format under the tagline of ‘For Retailers, By Retailers’.

Introducing the event, I thanked the attendees for travelling long distances to share current ideas – and work together to generate new ones – that could benefit local shoppers and energise their businesses.

One of the ideas of the summit is that independent retailers are affected by market changes in different ways to the big multiples. Therefore, independents are better off comparing notes about what works with each other rather than blindly following a Lidl-lite business plan.

“Success in any field, but especially in business, is about working with people not against them,” says Keith Ferrazzi, the author of Never Eat Alone.

This idea was brought to life in a break out session moderated by Raaj Chandarana, who runs a successful convenience store in High Wycombe, on the subject of engaging with local consumers.

In the final session, when everyone gathered together to discuss what our findings were, Chandarana asked everyone who sponsored their local football teams to put their hands up.

A sea of hands was raised. “Now how many of you have been to a game?,” he asked. A sea of hands shot up again. Chandarana smiled. They get it.

Community is a must-do, rather than a nice-to-do. Local retailers need to engage with their communities. This involves spending money and there is no point in trying to measure an exact return on investment. The idea is to be generous and to not keep score.

This is a rule that Ferrazzi believes in too. “Many people have adapted to these new times with the belief that it’s still a dog-eats-dog world, where the meanest, baddest dog in the neighbourhood wins. But nothing could be further from the truth.

“Where employees once found generosity and loyalty in the companies we worked for, today we must find them in a web of our own relationships. It isn’t the blind loyalty and generosity we once gave to a corporation. It’s a more personal kind of loyalty and generosity, one given to your colleagues, your team, your friends and your customers.”

Generosity creates connectedness and connectedness is what makes your shoppers more loyal to your business.

The challenge is that local shops now have to use social media tools to reach out and connect with their shoppers. This means you need a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and probably more besides.

At the Summit we had three brilliant keynote speakers. Australian retailer Mark Fletcher probably provided the key message: “Retailers need to challenge their business every day.”

So ask yourself: are you being generous enough with your community? This does not just mean in terms of money but also in terms of the mission that your business has to make life better.