Independent retailers can win against supermarket convenience stores by offering cafe-style food, connecting with their community and focusing on “shopper missions”.

This advice comes from Peter Blakemore, the managing director of Spar wholesaler A F Blakemore & Son, who has played a leading role in developing the convenience industry in the UK over his career of 50 years.

He said: “A great independent retailer has got to have flair, connection to the community where they trade and great standards. I think it's a great point of difference for independents to be running their business being part of the community.”

Blakemore’s top retail tips

  • Café culture: offer ‘food to eat now’
  • Have flair: Don’t be afraid to try out new ideas
  • Chill your beer: “You’d be surprised how many stores still don’t”
  • Mission possible: offer shopper solutions like ‘a meal for tonight’

He believes consumers have lost faith in big corporations and want to buy from businesses they can believe in.

A F Blakemore, which owns 320 Spar shops across England and Wales, is investing in solutions for shopper missions like a meal for tonight, and the ‘big night in’.

Blakemore predicts the competitive pressures in the convenience market will ease off over the next 10 years as the likes of Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local eat into each other’s sales. He says picking the right location will be key for independents.

He said: “Independent shops can continue to grow by focusing on what they can do well – pick a niche, and compete by being nearer. If you want a newspaper in the morning or you've run out of milk you're likely to walk to your nearest shop. You're not going to walk another 100 yards to the Tesco Express if you want to buy a copy of the Sun.”