Symbol groups and wholesalers must do more to equip retailers with the business skills they need to run successful shops, store owners have told RN.

Jag Aytain, of The Rural Hub & Post Office in Linton, Derbyshire, believes business development managers (BDMs) need to work harder to support retailers and identify when store owners are struggling or looking to improve.

Formerly a Spar retailer but now operating under a combined Costcutter and Mace fascia, Mr Aytain said: “A BDM can’t just be someone who calls in and provides you with promotions. They need to teach you how to add value to your business.”

A retailer – who did not want to be named – agreed, adding their wholesaler sells them goods without adding value to their business.

Mr Aytain, who has independently financed a store refit, said: “If retailers are taught how to be self-sufficient, the loyalty to the group will be automatic and it leads to a stronger business, benefiting both sides.

“There’s no point giving me £120,000 for a refit and then not giving me the tools to make that money back.”

Nick Fraser, who runs six stores including three Budgens, said Musgrave pushed him to become a better retailer and he is challenging Booker to do the same.

“We’re never arrogant enough to say we know everything – we want a wholesaler who, as well as delivering the product, adds an element of expertise,” he said.

Symbol groups told RN their BDMs are supporting members in various ways.

Nisa said it operates a retail academy which provides business training and is available to all members through their development managers.

Meanwhile, Bestway said its members receive an initial six-weeks of ‘hypercare’, providing training on processes and budgets, then receive two visits a month from sales reps and BDMs.

Neil Mercer, Blakemore Trade Partners sales director, said BDM roles are varied depending on the retailer, but they offer sales and margin analysis, as well as commercial support packages.