Ranjan Patel used her first speech as president of London’s Newsagents Federation this week to urge independent shopkeepers to use their imagination to win business from shoppers.

“We can exploit [our shops] by using our greatest gift, our imagination, ensuring the environments we create are interesting and inviting,” she said.

On the street in London a day later I passed by an Italian deli, which was beautifully presented and outside had a little sign encouraging shoppers to book an Italian cookery course, under the headline ‘I love Cooking! Make your own Italian dinner £35’.

Further up the street, was a Mexican restaurant with fresh oranges and limes in boxes by the window…plus a mass of chilis. It was completed by an A-board outside saying that it was the Observer’s best cheap eats in the UK award winner.

In between was a newsagent business with a Camelot national lottery station outside. Inside I was greeted by two signs on its magazine rack. One said: “No browsing.” The other said: “Thieves will be prosecuted.”

Perhaps the owner should take a short walk up and down his own street and think about what he is doing to make his store a destination for shoppers. He may have some problem customers but there must be an alternative to making your shop feel like a fortress.