As I walked in to Warner’s Budgens of Moreton-in-Marsh last week on a beautiful, warm autumn day, two ladies were walking out. Smiling, one tapped the other on the arm and said: “I really must come back to do all my shopping here.”

Outside, the store looked stunning. My attention was caught by a bright poster advertising Super Smoothies, by the litter free path, and, to the right, a happy Labrador tethered to a “dog hitch” next to a full bowl of crystal clear water.

Inside, I was welcomed by an open space of polished floor dotted with attractive displays of fresh fruit, vegetables, bread and pastries. All this flanked by a tempting delicatessen counter filled with cheeses and tasty stuff. A perfect landing zone that slowed my advance into the store and switched on my senses so that the brilliant new butcher’s counter caught my eye like the biggest Christmas present under the tree, saying, “open Me!”

It is 18 months since I was last in this shop – for the #IAA16 Retail Study Day – and standards have improved. I congratulate manager Mike Toth and pass on the remarks I overheard at the front door. He receives them positively as evidence that there are even more local people that need to be converted to become Warner’s Budgens loyalists.

Don’t dismiss this as retail from another planet, instead ask yourself, “how do I get here!”

The reason for my visit is the first meeting of the new Independent Retail Owners Forum (IROF), founded by convenience retail guru Scott Annan. While many of the UK-based independent retailers have visited before, the telling reaction is from first-time visitor and Dublin-based Thomas Ennis, who has 12 of the best convenience and foodservice shops on the planet. He said: “Guy Warner runs fantastic stores. I have got 50 ideas from just walking around this one!”

Tim Chalk, a guest at the forum, ex-Tesco and most recently chief executive of 7-Eleven in Hong Kong, told me: “Independent local stores have a bright future if they look like this.”

So, your first challenge as an independent store owner is to take a trip to the Cotswolds and look at a Warners’ Budgens store.

Warner’s Moreton-in-Marsh shop is a 9,000sq foot supermarket. However, his primary supply chain is operated by Booker, the same supply chain that so many other local stores rely on. An advantage of this is many of you can easily measure the differences in-store, such as the array of local suppliers and the calibre of the staff he employs.

Don’t dismiss this as retail from another planet, instead ask yourself, “how do I get here!”

The answer mainly comes down to vision. Talking to Warner last week, he is nervous about new competition from Aldi, which was given planning permission expressly because of its low prices. He has responded by investing in the quality of his retail operations, on which the Warner’s Budgens reputation with shoppers stands.

IROF was set up to champion the great things that local retailers do and to set the agenda for fellow independent retail owners and their suppliers. None of the top independents are taking their future for granted. They face the same challenges all independent retailers face.

However, there is a gap between their standards and those of many local retailers. Every independent business will benefit if your retail standards rise upwards.
Take the challenge on.