Recently, here at Lambs Larder, we took a decision that could have gone two ways. We decided to cease trading with one of our larger frozen ready meal suppliers.

This was a brave decision as the supplier is very well known and we thought it acted a little like a customer magnet.

During the six years we have traded their wares, business has been good and growing year on year. So why cease trading with them? The short answer is that they started to dictate what products in their range I could stock in my store. After six years of building up brand loyalty and meal loyalty, I was all of a sudden having to tell my customers that the meals they wanted were no longer available from my store.

The reason, the supplier told us, was because we needed five freezers dedicated to their food to stock the entire range. In a store our size that is impossible and not even desirable.

So, we were left with two choices:

1) Stick with the current large supplier and work with the restricted range they were permitting us to purchase.

2) Cease our business relationship and look elsewhere.

We chose option two.

I am delighted to say that not only have we not lost any customers (much to our surprise, actually), we have also sourced similar meals from a smaller supplier. We have even started stocking locally prepared farm pies, quiches and lasagnes that have been an instant and ongoing hit with our customer base.

This has really re-opened our eyes to the wonderful range of local produce on our doorstep and it is this produce that our customers are craving. I feel empowered in that we took a business decision that was risky but ultimately worked and, as a result, not only do we benefit but so do the local producers and the customers themselves.

It is all too easy to be bullied by big suppliers and to fall into the trap of thinking your customers come to you for that supplier’s product, not because you run a quality operation that has its own brand loyalty, your brand.