The longer that I run my shop the more aware I am that I don’t have all the answers. One of the most important things I do to overcome this is to get out of my shop and go to where I know I can meet great retailers, such as the Local Shop Summit and the IAA. Making the effort to do this is ensuring that I continue to improve.

Events like these have helped me to question myself constructively.  Is my core range right?  Is it priced for volume sales? I know that our 2 litre milk at £1.20 is not the cheapest in our sector, but it is the cheapest in our catchment and with my “Mo’s Special” label on very bottle we sell the message is there every time the milk is used.  I also took on board feedback from customers.  Recently our customers were telling me that the local cash machine was always breaking down so I responded by getting a free to use ATM installed in my shop.

At another recent event I heard David Sands talk about how his stores made the most of bake-off and simple food-to-go. I was enthused by the opportunity that he illustrated, but didn’t currently have the space to in my shop to make it work. With over 100 square metres of floor space however, I knew I could find room for a new category; I just needed to measure and challenge the performance of every metre of display space that I have.

Examining the profitability of each category showed us that our stationery range – which occupied a 1 metre bay – was the weakest part of my business. Sales data clearly demonstrated that stationery sales had been declining for some time and were showing no signs improving.

With the space found, it was back to David Sands. These are very easy to understand and relatively simple to implement, and based on what sandwich shops have been doing for years – using baguettes and rolls baked from frozen in in-store ovens and adding value by slicing them open and filling to order. We already stock many of the products that can be used as fillings, and, as Terry Philpott says, we can also use this new offer to minimise salad waste.

This also got me thinking about how my shop can help our customers to eat more fresh fruit. We have found it extremely hard to sell pre-prepared fruit salads before they go off, so, taking on board an idea I’d picked up about using our own fresh salad products in our own-made sandwiches I decided to trial making up our own. The benefits are many – the fruit is extremely fresh, we know exactly what we are putting in and we are helping to reduce wastage from the category.

In addition to attending networking events with other retailers, I also make sure I visit the multiples. They spend millions on making the best use of their space and I am always happy to pick up good ideas for free!  Tesco recently published their worst results for two decades. This indicates that is an opportunity for business that can react quickly to change – as independent retailers can. Our sector needs to be positive. I know that I can do better, do you?

The independent convenience sector needs to up its game and looking at challenges in a new way – such as in this example from the fresh category – we can ensure we make the most of opportunities.

 

Advice on food safety can be found on the Food Standards Agency website, www.food.gov.uk.