IGD report reinvention indepedent retailThe best thing about being an independent retailer is just that – you can operate alone. You make your own decisions and have more leeway to offer innovative products and services, you can chop and change the ranges and products you sell at the drop of a hat, and your local customers get to know you as a face they can trust in the local community.

With all of this in mind, the news from the 2010 Convenience Retailing report from the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) showing that the convenience sector has grown in value by 6.3 per cent over the last year is far from surprising. Convenience store retailers are now part of a £30.9billion industry.

At the launch of the figures, Jamie Trust of the IGD said that retailers are starting to reinvent themselves more and more – and there’s no greater example of that than Andrew Thornton, owner of Thornton’s Budgens in Crouch End, London, whose store caters perfectly for the middle class customers in his local area. His latest innovation is to grow his own vegetables, to sell in-store, on his roof. Using an oft-neglected space to add a point of difference to his store is something that the multiples would surely struggle with.

Retailers, says Trust, have strengthened “the support within their local community”. National Independents’ Week, which took place earlier this month, is the perfect example of this, as retailers took time out to put on special events for their local communities and loyal customers.

Rounded price-points and meal deals were also highlighted in the report as crucial reasons for the success of the convenience sector. One of the key innovations recently in the sector has been the rise of own-label goods, as all of the major symbol groups put together their own price-sensitive offering – while the big suppliers focus on attracting customers with simple, easy-to-understand price-marked packs.

Forecourt retailers, according to the report, have seen sales rise by 1.9 per cent – despite a decline in the number of stores. I recently spoke to Shailesh Parekh, a forecourt retailer from Wolverhampton who has grown his sales by a mammoth £10,000 a week – thanks to friendly service, a store extension and offering what his customers want on a seasonal basis.

Make sure that you’re part of the blooming convenience channel. Times may have been hard for your customers recently, but things really are on the up – if you want them to be.