Congratulations go to Paul Gardner and the team at Budgens of Islington, London, on being named Convenience Retailer of the Year at the 2018 Convenience Retail Awards last week.

It was a difficult decision, as it always is, but I’m not saying that to soften the blow for all the other entrants; I’m saying that because there are a lot of fantastic convenience stores out there, and choosing between them is genuinely difficult. All of those who entered, and particularly those who were represented as finalists on Thursday night, can be regarded as successful stores, and all are fully deserving of recognition from their peers.

If there is a common thread that runs through all of our main winners, it is that they have forged their own individual identities in the markets in which they operate. The advice and support of their wholesalers and symbol groups is an important factor in their success, but just as important is the ability to adapt that to local circumstances and surroundings. All of our winners are innovative, unconventional even, with a focus on their own unique customer base and the way that their customers want to shop.

In my view this creates the most reliable template for the future. Customers have a choice in where and even how they shop, and are more inclined to exercise their own personal choices than ever before, so success is going to be all about being responsive to shopper needs while still maintaining high standards. Last week’s winners truly embody that spirit, and point the way ahead for the industry.