If your local independent convenience store is bad, you think all independent c-stores are bad. But if your local Tesco Express is bad, you think it is a bad example and not representative of the estate.

innovationThis is the opinion of two Spar retailers I visited last week who have taken it upon themselves to raise the standards of their fascia, as well as the whole independent channel, in their area. Justin Entwistle from Poulton Le Fylde and Kevin Hunt from Preston aim to show that their shops offer customers everything they need from their local store, that they’re easy to shop, provide value for money, and offer a credible alternative to supermarket c-stores.

They go on study tours with other Spar retailers, visit each other’s businesses, speak to their customers about what they want from their local store and act on what they learn. Read more about Kevin’s store next week.

Another great example of a retailer striving to push his business forward is RN columnist Bintesh Amin. This week, Bintesh writes about getting his Budgens and Londis managers to work in each other’s stores to see how different symbols operate and what they can learn from each other.

Finding innovative ways to grow a business isn’t just the domain of symbol stores. In this week’s profile, Tess Flower says losing her post office could have meant the end for her shop. But instead she opened an in-store café, turned it into a community hub, and used the twin businesses to drive footfall to each other and cross-sell goods.

I’m always impressed with the innovative way independents create a fantastic shopping experience and a great first impression of their stores. These are just four examples I have encountered in the past few weeks.