Every year, the RN team visits stores up and down the UK to learn about working life in independent businesses.

In the third of our blogs on our visits, associate editor Chris Rolfe joins Today’s retailer Billy Kinder at his store in Northampton

I arrive for my shift at Billy Kinder’s store at the same time as a three-pallet delivery, so the plan for my day’s work experience is immediately clear.

Billy – an Independent Achievers Academy finalist – invited me to see the store at the IAA gala dinner late last year, to see the business he has owned for 15 years after a refresh, and I was keen to experience working life in a good, modern convenience store.

Billy has very high merchandising, hygiene and customer service standards so he is clear about how he expects this delivery to be handled: sell-by dates on all outers must be checked before stock is shelved, shelves must be cleaned before stock is put out, and new stock must sit behind old.

Billy has very high merchandising, hygiene and customer service standards so he is clear about how he expects this delivery to be handled

The value of keeping a close eye on sell-by dates is obvious straight away. An outer of Maltesers pouches has just two weeks left before going out of date and the rate of sale on this product isn’t high enough to sell them through in time. It’s a regular problem, says Billy, and the box is earmarked for return.

A few hours spent stocking and merchandising the chocolate, biscuits, crisps and sweets aisles are a pleasant change from the office-based routine on RN, but as ever on work experience, I’m reminded it’s easy to write about good merchandising but trickier to put it into practice when shelf space is tight.

We face a choice in the crisps aisle of delisting a popcorn brand that a few local customers always look out for, or struggle to shelve a new flavour of crisps. The crisps win.

Once the delivery is shelved, I am keen to see how Billy is adapting to plain packaging and EUTPD II-compliant stock, so join his wife Angie at the till. Regularly, she tells customers she no longer has their brand in a 10-pack because of the new legislation.

Customers are taking the news fairly well, she says, but it is tricky to tell brand from brand, and they have chosen to merchandise the gantry by premium, mid-priced and economy brands to speed up service.