Networking is now a key part of our industry. It is becoming more important to work with suppliers and get our needs across to them.

Suppliers are starting to understand the independent convenience market a lot better and I’m finding that there are now more suppliers that are wanting to work with us.

Social media is a great way to build new relationships. We use Twitter for suppliers and Facebook for customers.

Through Twitter I formed a relationship with a PR agency that works with Ferrero, and they helped us organise a Kinder Easter Egg event. Ferrero gave us bespoke units for Valentine’s Day and we had a huge Valentine’s Heart made of Ferrero Rocher.

If account managers come into my store and take the time to sit down with me then you know that person is keen to help grow your business

Ferrero talked about giving customers ‘the whole package’ at Valentine’s Day. Instead of just selling different gifts, we had prosecco, flowers and chocolates for £20 and we added 16% to our Valentine’s Day like-for-like sales.

We used to have an account manager at Cadbury and he helped us add almost 20% additional sales in confectionery. I also work really well with Philip Morris. It’s an easy conversation; with each supplier, I ask: “What is your goal? What are you targeted on and what do you do need to achieve?”

If account managers come into my store and take the time to sit down with me then you know that person is keen to help grow your business.

Another great way to network is by going to events, especially those run by the ACS. It’s brilliant for networking with other retailers and the events don’t seem driven to an agenda.

I’ve also met loads of retailers through Twitter, and we’ve got a WhatsApp group where you can put a question in and get answers within five minutes.

It’s also important to interact with the trade press. If we’re seen quoted in titles like Retail Express then that’s where suppliers pick up on us. It’s great to get your face out there.

You don’t have to go to every event or spend hours on Twitter but you have to make time.

There are quite a few events I turn down because the store has to come first, but working with suppliers, other retailers and trade press is essential for driving your store forward.