In the latest issue of Retail Express (available free to all news retailers) we’ve delved into the details of symbols groups, what are the benefits of joining and what are the options available to you should you choose to make the switch.

The combination of the independent retailer partnered with a symbol group is widely tipped to continue its impressive growth of the past decade.  So what is keeping you from adopting a fascia – or moving to one more suited to your ambitions or your local area?

Before tackling this question: a warning.  You may have read that Tesco has recently bought into Harris+Hoole, an ‘edgy’ coffee chain start-up, and Giraffe, an established eatery for Islington mums and their kids.  Why?  This suggests that the supermarket giant sees a weakness in its ability to connect with social media savvy shoppers.  The efficient supply chain that was its competitive advantage may be no more.

If the market is shifting, will this cause a problem for the symbol model?  After all, the symbols offer independents supply chain and merchandising disciplines so they can compete with the multiples.  The answer (see below) is: it depends.

First, back to the question of choosing to join a fascia or not.  This is a decision you need to revisit every year.  There are three main reasons to join a symbol group.  First, to get a market proposition that will work for your shoppers.  SEcond, to get a great supply chain at the back of your shop.  And finally, to lock into a ‘master-mind’ group.

This latter quality is often overlooked but is very important.  Through a symbol group you have the opportunity to build relationships with a close group of retailers like you.  But also with people in suits who read the Grocer and aim to be the next Justin King.  Collectively, if you engage with them, they will help you improve your business plan.

To choose which symbol group is right for you, visit their shops and get their teams to visit you.  Write a list of your plans for the next five years and compare this with what they say you will get.  Don’t haggle up-front.  Read their advertisements and challenge them on what their claims mean.

It is a truth not often acknowledged that a symbol group will only amplify your existing potential.  You have to work hard at making it work for you .

Before taking the step, ask yourself two hard questions.  Do you connect with your local customers?  Do you have a great staff team?

I have yet to meet a great retailers who did not love his shoppers and his location and who did not take great pride in developing his staff.  If you can answer yes to both questions then you have what it takes to make the symbol fascia a success.

The ability to connect and motivate your staff gives you the edge over the multiples.  The wholesalers know that and that’s why they are seeking you.