There is a lot of news about the performance of retailers on the television at the moment. This is positive because it means that there are fewer global disasters, wars, tax rises, scandals and terrible crimes to take up all the airtime. It is negative because it is so broad brush.
For example, on the television news they talk about retailers as if they are interchangeable when in reality a food retailer and a white goods retailer operate in different worlds. Shops that sell books and DVDs and CDs face incredible pressure from internet sales. Ones that sell bread and milk do not.
Local shops in the news and convenience channel face a very tough trading environment this year, perhaps more so than for some time. One leading wholesaler told me in November that trading was very, very difficult. For him this was a departure from his more usual optimism.
I would speculate that the pressure from the multiple operators on the convenience channel, particularly in London and the South East, is having an impact.
What to do?
The words of John Rogers, Sainsbury finance director, at its City announcement this week, bear repeating: “2013 we would expect to be much like the last two to three years. Really low levels of consumer confidence and trends such as smaller weekly grocery shop and continuing switching to own brand to save money.”
Independent retailers need to stick to the knitting. They should focus on stocking what they know shoppers want to buy and they need to find the best possible deals for their business. This means looking at how you buy and who you buy from. Remember, you only make the margin when the last tin in the outer is sold!
Secondly, you need to pay attention to what shoppers want. You need to listen to your shoppers and to those consumers who walk past or drive past your shop without stopping or who leave without buying. Standards need to rise.
Thirdly, you need to be yourself. You need to lead your business. You need to take a leaf out of Michael Heppell’s book and be “Brilliant” every day.