Alpesh: If you want to be on the cutting edge of retailing, then it's very important to attend events. There's a lot of knowledge out there and a lot of people to inspire you. It's an opportunity to meet other retailers and exchange views. Also, you get to meet other experts within the retail sector. If you want to be competitive with the multiples, then you've got to know what's going on.
Bob: You've got to go to events to keep up-to-date with product launches and also to meet other people in the industry.
Saqib: I try to attend as many trade shows as possible. You often see something you've never even thought of trying and it's a great chance to exchange ideas with other people.
Chris: It's important to see people face-to-face and you can also sample new products and place orders.
How many events do you attend a year?
Alpesh: I attend about four or five, in addition to Musgrave's own events.
Bob: I attend about three events.
Saqib: I go to about five or six shows a year.
Chris: Two or three a year.
Which events do you attend?
Alpesh: I sit on the national retail council for Musgrave Retail Partners every three months. I also attend the Convenience Retailing Show, the Convenience Retail Awards and IGD's Glitter Ball.
Bob: I go to a number of exhibitions, including the Convenience Retailing Show and C-Store's Awards.
Saqib: I've been to so many shows that I can't remember them all, but I always attend exhibitions, such as those in Stoneleigh Park and Birmingham's NEC.
Chris: Nisa-Today's Stoneleigh Exhibition and Pro-Retail are the main events I go to.
What do you find most useful - seminars, exhibitions or debates?
Alpesh: Everything is useful - you are faced with new challenges every day in this job, so you never know when the information you've picked up might come in handy.
Bob: I enjoy exhibitions because you are first to see innovations and you get to quiz suppliers.
Saqib: I find exhibitions the most useful because there are so many ideas and different technologies to discover.
Chris: The exhibitions are great and I really enjoyed the C-Store Champions event.
What is the most useful thing you have got out of attending an event?
Alpesh:: There is a wealth of undisclosed knowledge at these events. It's the kind of advice that can help you to win awards.
Bob: I once attended a National Federation of Retail Newsagents annual conference where there was a presentation on in-store bakeries. I took plenty of tips away with me and put them into practice in my store. I have since won two awards for my in-store bakery.
Saqib: Every time I go I get something out of it. For example, I've learnt which CCTV systems are most suitable for my store and the best type of machine to use for cleaning the floor. I was the first c-store to have a Subway and that was inspired by seeing a stand at an exhibition.
Chris: I've come back with new tills and a back office system after attending an exhibition. I'm planning to find a new food-to-go supplier at the next event I go to.
How easy do you find it to get away from your store?
Alpesh: It's not always easy to leave the store, but you have to plan it into your schedule.
Bob: There's no denying it's tough to get away, but as long as you know about an event a month or so in advance then you can book cover.
Saqib: It's very hard to leave the store, but you've got to get away to see what the multiples are up to. It's good for business to keep introducing new concepts.
Chris: I've got 16 staff, so as long as I've got a couple of month's notice, I can plan for someone to look after the store for me.
What would you say to retailers who claim that they don't have time to attend events?
Alpesh: Retailers who don't make time to go to events aren't supporting the industry. Independent retailers must unite in order to compete with the multiples.
Bob: If you're stuck in your own environment then you won't know what's going on in the industry as a whole. You need to learn about displays and promotions from talking to people.
Saqib: You have to make the effort to get cover because attending an event helps your business in so many ways. From a financial perspective, buying the right new system can save you money, and from an emotional angle, going to events gives you a break from the day-to-day running of your store.
Chris: It's a bit like burying your head in the sand. If a retailer can afford to take a holiday, then they can manage one day out of their store to attend a show - it's just a case of forward planning. It's vital to go to events in order to learn new things.
Alpesh: Don't make assumptions about anything - you need to keep your ears open and don't be afraid to ask questions.
Bob: It's worth going for the whole day and taking in all you can. You'll come back rejuvenated after a day out and you're bound to have picked up ideas from other people.
Saqib: It's good to see as many stands as possible. I make a point of meeting with other retailers in my symbol group. We swap details and then let each other know if we see anything particularly interesting.
Chris: You've got to get out there and sample things. You have to be prepared to throw yourself into the thick of it and keep an open mind.