Independent retailers must adopt a “two-pronged attack” and remain efficient while trying to grow their business and sales to beat the competition.

That’s the message from leading convenience retailer Patrick Sewell, who runs the Sewell on the Go forecourt operation, and is set to become the new chairman of the Association of Convenience Stores.

Retailers need to be in a business of sales maximisation, not cost minimisation, Mr Sewell told Retail Newsagent in an exclusive interview this week.

“The race to the bottom has one inevitable end to it. If you keep on cutting and cutting, you’ll end up with no business. You have to drive efficiencies, but you need to do the most you can to grow your business.

“It’s a two-pronged attack – you need to be efficient and control your costs, but you’ve got to be positive and try to grow your business and your sales.”

Stores also need to focus on food to go to become destinations for their customers, he said.

It is key, he added, to begin by getting the basics right with food to go, before moving on to more specialist areas.

“You can’t just rely on staples like tobacco and soft drinks,” he said. “It’s about following your customers, and they are saying it’s what they want.”

He added offering impeccable customer service gives retailers an advantage over declining standards in the multiples. “You’ve got to give people more of a reason to visit your store,” he said.

“There’s a case for specialism – a specialist off-licence developing a quirky, unique range – but in the more mainstream marketplace, it has to be more of a one-stop shop.

“No-one can predict what the store of the future looks like,” he said. “The only certainty is that the customers will be dictating what’s in it.”