Who says nothing in life is free? There is a host of experts out there willing to give their advice at no charge and C-Store has their number

There’s no doubting that 2010 was a tough year for business, and 2011 could be even tougher. Battling against rising costs and seemingly endless red tape can leave even the most upbeat souls feeling downtrodden.

However, help is at hand and it won’t cost you a penny. There are a multitude of organisations out there willing to give you all the advice you need to ease your burden, and for FREE!

Over the next few pages, C-Store has compiled a directory of the contacts ready and waiting to help you out, all of whom provide their expertise for FREE.


Whether it’s an unreliable supplier, or an uncooperative landlord or local authority, for problems that are close to home head to the Retailer Troubleshooting section. Here you will find professionals with the right know-how and trade charities for those who have really fallen on hard times.

In addition, there are C-Store’s own initiatives designed to make your life easier, including details of the FREE Ask The Experts sessions we’ll be running at the National Convenience Show in February, and a contact number for our trusty agony aunt, Dear Jac.

Dear Jac

Convenience Store’s very own agony aunt, Jac Roper, has more than 30 years of experience in dealing with retailers’ problems. Be it a troublesome supplier, bank manager, or otherwise, Jac is happy find solutions on your behalf. Tel: 020 8502 9775 Email: jac@roper.demon.co.uk

Jac has been resolving problems on behalf of independent retailers for many years and for FREE. Ashok Ramalingam, who runs a Best One store in Gravesend, Kent, has already made use of her services. He had signed up for one year’s alarm service from ADT Fire and Security, but was automatically rolled over onto a four-year contract, despite cancelling after the first year.

Ashok spent a further eight months trying to cancel the contract without success and so got in touch with Jac. She contacted ADT to get to the bottom of things and within two days the contract was terminated. Case closed and another happy ending for Jac.


Our Business Guidance section covers everything from advice about debt to health and safety info from sources that won’t charge you for their services.

If you have a query about any aspect of your business, then Business Link is a good place to start. This government-run service can advise on any number of issues, from finance and marketing to taxes, training and environmental issues, and put you in touch with the appropriate body if needed.

Nigel Dowdney, who owns the Earlham Shopper & Stalham Shopper stores in Norfolk, has already taken advantage of one such body. When he was looking to ensure that he had all his health and safety boxes ticked, he visited the Health & Safety Executive website for FREE advice. “By following the advice on the site, we now understand that risk assessment doesn’t have to be complicated it’s really a straightforward process,” he says. “Before we had no focus on what we should be doing. Now the whole thing has been simplified for us, which makes life easier all round.”


Keeping crime at bay is a constant battle for the retail industry and so that’s where the FREE Law & Order Pointers section of our directory can help. From how to beat card fraud and counterfeit cigarettes to the latest advice from the Home Office and Trading Standards, it offers all you need to help you beat crime and stay on the right side of the law.

HM Revenue & Customs

This Revenue & Customs site offers advice on a variety of subjects including PAYE, tax, stakeholder pensions, statutory maternity pay, statutory sickness pay, National Insurance contributions and Inland Revenue. Tel: Employers’ Helpline 08457 143 143 Tel: VAT Helpline 0845 010 9000 Web: www.hmrc.gov.uk/employers

Lesley Brown of Frankmarsh Stores in Barnstaple, Devon, found Trading Standards particularly helpful when she wanted FREE guidance on selling alcohol. “We hadn’t sold alcohol before, so we wanted to make sure we knew exactly what we were doing,” she says. “We contacted Trading Standards and invited our local officer down to the shop so that they could help advise us.”

For FREE, the officer ran through all the necessary legal requirements, as well as telling Lesley what publicity was available to get across the message that the store would not serve alcohol to underage customers. “They provided us with free pos packs on underage alcohol sales,” says Lesley.

In addition, Trading Standards provided a FREE CD to help train staff on age-restricted sales.


Of course, FREE advice isn’t always for the purpose of ensuring you are up to date with legislation. It can also be used to help save money, which is where   our Energy Saving contacts come into play.

There are many different bodies offering consultations and advice, including Ecomonitor, the Environment Agency, and the Carbon Trust.

Independent retail chain Roys of Wroxham, which has stores across Norfolk and Suffolk, cut its energy bills by 22% after implementing efficiency measures following FREE guidance provided by the Carbon Trust.

“The Carbon Trust survey is free so it’s well worth looking into,” says Mike Kett, head of facilities management at Roys of Wroxham.

Hopefully, hearing these stories has convinced you that you can get something for nothing. So before you fork out your hard-earned cash on an expensive consultant, or tear your hair out trying to deal with a problem on your own, why not take a look at our directory and check out your FREE options first.

FREE Retail troubleshooting

National Convenience Show
Tel: 01293 610378
Web: www.nationalconvenienceshow.co.uk
The National Convenience Show is run in association with Convenience Store, The Grocer and the Association of Convenience Stores’ Summit 11. Ask The Experts sessions will run throughout the course of the show, which takes place at Birmingham NEC on February 27-28 and March 1. This will give retailers the chance to pre-book 20-minute slots with convenience retail gurus. Sessions will include everything from alcohol licensing to energy saving.

C-Store Champions
Tel: 01293 610 220
Convenience Store’s champion retailers tackle key industry issues such as the tobacco display ban, community retailing and dealing with crime head-on in their regular magazine slot. If there is a particular topic that you would like to see discussed, then get in touch with C-Store features editor Sarah Britton (sarah.britton@william-reed.co.uk).

Retail Trust
Tel: 0808 801 0808 freephone
Web: www.retailtrust.org.uk
The Retail Trust offers a range of services for retail workers and those retired from the trade. It is able to help people with financial difficulties, those suffering from physical and mental abuse, victims and witnesses of crime, and those affected by a range of other unforeseen circumstances.

Tel: 08088 021122 freephone
Web: www.caravan-charity.org.uk
Caravan helps people all over the UK who have worked, or are working, in the grocery industry and have now found that they need some extra support to get by. Caravan raises money through a variety of fundraising events, donations and corporate sponsorship. It not only provides monetary support, but practical help, too.

Sweet Charity
Tel: 020 7404 5222
Web: sweetcharity.net
This charity offers a range of services to workers in the confectionery trade, including c-store retailers. It can provide financial and emotional support to sick or disabled people; those affected by unexpected circumstances; and those seeking help in retirement.

The National Skills Academy for Retail
Tel: 020 7462 5089
Web: www.nsaforretail.com
Via a network of skills shops, The National Skills Academy for Retail provides access to consistent, high-quality training for retail businesses, their employees and future workforce, delivered through a network of quality-marked retail skills shops.

The Plunkett Foundation
Tel: 01993 810730
Web: www.plunkett.co.uk
The Plunkett Foundation helps rural communities to set up and run community-owned shops with a range of partner organisations. 

Free Business guidance

Business Link
Tel: 0845 600 9006
Web: www.businesslink.gov.uk/
Set up by the government, this service exists to offer general business support, advice and information to businesses in England. Subject matters it advises on range from taxes, returns and payroll, to sales and marketing. Business Link does not provide funding, but can point you in the direction of available grants.

Business Link is funded by Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). However, please bear in mind that RDAs will be abolished by April 2012, to be replaced by Local Enterprise Partnerships formed by local authorities and businesses.

To get in touch with your regional business link contact, either go to the main Business Link website and select your region on the interactive map, or dial one of the following telephone numbers:

Regional Business Link contacts:

South West
Tel: 0845 600 9966

South East
Tel: 0845 600 9006

0845 600 0787

East Midlands
Tel: 0845 058 6644

West Midlands
Tel: 0845 113 1234

Tel: 0845 717 1615

Tel: 0845 6048 048

North East
Tel: 0845 600 9 006

North West
Tel: 0845 00 66 888

Government business advice for the rest of the UK:

Tel: 0300 060 3000
Web: Business.wales.gov.uk

Tel: 0845 609 6611
Web: www.bgateway.com

Northern Ireland
Tel: 0800 027 0639
Web: nibusinessinfo.co.uk

Business Debtline
Tel: 0800 197 6026 freephone
Web: www.bdl.org.uk
Find advice here on budgeting, cash flow and basic tax issues. A freephone line offers confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems. The service is available to retailers in England, Wales and Scotland.

Tel: 0800 917 4607 freephone
Web: www.advice4debtNI.com
This firm provides debt advice for Northern Irish businesses. It offers you all of the options available for your personal circumstances and helps you to deal with your creditors by providing you with all the necessary paperwork.

TaxAid helpline
Tel: 0345 120 3779
Web: www.taxaid.org.uk
A UK charity providing free tax advice to people who cannot afford to pay a professional advisor. It offers information on rights and responsibilities under the UK tax system, and deals with a range of issues including PAYE, self-assessment, tax credits and allowances, tax refunds and Inland Revenue enquiries.

Tel: 08457 47 47 47
Web: www.acas.org.uk
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service aims to improve organisations through better employment relations. The group is able to offer advice on a wealth of issues including: absence, contracts, dismissal, and recruitment. Although largely funded by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills, Acas is a non-departmental body, governed by an independent council.

Tribunals Service
Tel: 0845 795 9775
Web: www.employmenttribunals.gov.uk
The Employment Tribunals are independent judicial bodies who determine disputes between employers and employees over employment rights. The website provides information about the tribunal’s procedures and gives guidance on how you make or respond to a claim.

Equality and Human Rights Commission
Tel: England 0845 604 6610
Tel: Wales 0845 604 8810
Tel: Scotland 0845 604 5510
The website and helpline gives information and guidance on discrimination and human rights issues, such as age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

UK Border Agency
Tel: Employers’ Helpline Immigration : 0300 123 4699
Web: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/
The UK Border Agency, which is responsible for controlling migration into the UK, can advise retailers on preventing illegal working.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Tel: 0845 345 0055
Web: www.hse.gov.uk
All aspects of health and safety are covered on the HSE website and info line. Guidance on health and safety legislation in the workplace is available both on the website and via the info line. Areas covered include workers’ rights, reporting an accident, and tackling stress.

Food Standards Agency
Tel: England 020 7276 8829
Tel: Wales 02920 678999
Tel: Scotland 01224 285100
Tel: N Ireland 028 9041 7700
Web: www.food.gov.uk
The Food Standards Agency is an independent government department set up by an Act of Parliament in 2000 to protect the public’s health and consumer interests in relation to food. The website is regularly updated with information on the latest product recalls.

Lawyers for your Business
Tel: 020 7405 9075
Web: www.lawsociety.org.uk
This network of solicitors in England and Wales was set up by the Law Society to assist small businesses. Phone the central telephone number and you will be redirected to a member operating the scheme in your area. They will offer you a free half-hour diagnostic consultation.

Citizens Advice Bureau
Web: www.adviceguide.org.uk
There are more than 400 bureaux across England, Wales and Northern Ireland on hand to help people resolve their legal, monetary and other problems by providing free, independent and confidential advice. Put your postcode into the search box on the website, and it will direct you to your nearest office.

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
Tel: 0870 333 1600
Web: www.rics.org

RICS operates a business rates helpline, whereby retailers can be put in touch with a local surveyor. The surveyor then gives a free 30-minute consultation over the phone. 

Law & order pointers

Home Office
Tel: 020 7035 4848
Web: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crime
The government hub for crime prevention and business crime advice, providing information and guidance on preventing and reporting crime, current legislation, penalties for offences and your rights.

Crime Mapper
Web: www.maps.police.uk
This website provides information on crime and anti-social behaviour in your neighbourhood in England or Wales. It also contains contact details for local policing teams in your area.


Tel: 0800 555 111 freephone Web: www.crimestoppers-uk.org This is a free and confidential line for reporting crimes. The Association of Convenience Stores is working with Crimestoppers to offer a reward for information that leads to a conviction for serious crime against retailers.

Trading Standards Institute
Web: www.tradingstandards.gov.uk
Tel: 0845 608 9421
Trading Standards provides business guidance on compliance with Trading Standards legislation, on a range of topics from labelling of foods to selling fireworks, as well as contact details for your local Trading Standards service.

Trading Standards Advice
Web: www.everythingregulation.co.uk
This website offers Business Advice Packs that are specific to issues affecting your business, as well as links to local authority websites throughout the UK.

Card Watch
Web: www.cardwatch.org.uk
Card Watch is the UK banking industry’s fraud prevention programme. There is currently no telephone service, but the website offers details of its services and provides tips on spotting card fraud.

Action Fraud
Tel: 0300 1232040
An advice line run by the National Fraud Authority to help prevent debit and credit card fraud. If you suspect card fraud taking place in your store, contact Action Fraud any time of day.

Tel: 020 8568 6646
Web: www.fact-uk.org.uk
Selling counterfeit DVDs can lead to a huge fine or a prison sentence. If you suspect you have purchased or have been offered any counterfeit merchandise, contact the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) immediately for advice on how to proceed.

HMRC Customs Confidential hotline
Tel: Hotline 0800 59 5000
Tel: Infoline 0845 010 9000
Web: www.hmrc.gov.uk
If you have been approached with or suspect you have mistakenly bought counterfeit or contraband products, contact HM Revenue & Customs immediately. The first number is a confidential helpline. For information on contraband or counterfeit products, call the second number.

Bank of England
Tel: 020 7601 4444
Web: www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/index
You can find advice here on what to do if you have accepted or been offered counterfeit cash. It also provides information on legal tender and accepting outgoing bank notes.

Banknote Watch
Tel: 07973 818927
Web: www.banknotewatch.org
Stained or damaged banknotes may actually be notes that have been stolen in a bank or cash in transit robbery. If you have accepted any, or if a customer has attempted to pay with one, contact this number for advice on what to do. If thieves are unable to spend them in shops, it reduces the incentive of robbery.

Information Commissioner’s Office
Tel: 0303 123 1113
Web: www.ico.gov.uk
An independent authority, the ICO can help with data protection and CCTV queries.

Victim Support
Tel:0845 30 30 900
Web: www.victimsupport.org
Victim Support is a national charity to help those affected by crime, whether it is reported or not. If you or a member of your staff has been affected by crime, contact this number for advice on how to deal with it.

Email: info@maybo.com
Web: www.maybo.com
Maybo is a consultancy providing advice and training in dealing with workplace violence and conflict resolution. Courses are paid for, but you can email Maybo for free advice on how to avoid conflict in busy shopping environments and to get tips for working alone.

Tel: 01785 817 885
Web: www.re-solv.org
The Society for the Prevention of Solvent and Volatile Substance Abuse is an independent charity operating throughout the UK, offering advice to retailers on the sale of solvents and related laws. The website offers factsheets as well as online training courses for retailers.

Energy-saving advice


Web: www.netregs.gov.uk
Free tips on how to cut energy usage as well as all the latest news and legislation.

Carbon Trust

Tel: 0800 085 2005 freephone Web: www.carbontrust.co.uk The Carbon Trust provides a wealth of free expert advice on reducing energy consumption and cutting waste including a free online training tool. The tool gives you an introduction to energy saving and can help you to create a personalised action plan for your store. There are six modules which address how you can implement low- and no-cost energy management measures in key areas such as electricity out of hours, energy management, heating and lighting systems.

Tel: 0845 680 9939
Web: ecomonitor.com
Ecomonitor delivers energy and business-efficiency advice across small, medium and large-sized companies, specialising in the convenience retail sector. The company offers expertise in areas such as: refrigeration, ventilation and lighting.

Energy Advice Line
Tel: 0800 915 1800
Web: www.energyadviceline.org.uk/
The Energy Advice Line is a free resource which allows you to compare business electricity prices from all the leading business electricity and gas suppliers. It also provides advice on switching.

Energy Saving Trust
Tel: 01372 376 743
Web: www.energysavingtrust.org.uk
The Energy Saving Trust is a non-profit organisation that provides free advice on how to stop wasting energy, plus insight into cost-effective household improvements and methods of home energy generation.

Tel: 0800 585 794 freephone
Web: www.envirowise.gov.uk
Envirowise is a government funded organisation which offers free independent support to businesses looking to become more resource efficient in all manner of ways, from better waste management to working more effectively with suppliers. Retailers can access up to two hours-worth of free specialist advice by calling the helpline.

Environment Agency
Tel: 08708 506 506
Web: www.environment-agency.gov.uk/
The Agency is a public body responsible to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and to the National Assembly for Wales. It can offer guidance on flooding, pollution, waste and energy.

Tel: 028 9069 8868
Invest Northern Ireland’s energy team can help you identify solutions to energy problems and offers free on-site surveys.

Tel: 0808 100 2040
Web: www.wrap.org.uk
The government’s Resource Efficiency body WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) provides a number of free tools and services to help food and drink retailers develop and implement waste reduction action plans. It also has a team of expert advisers who will offer free confidential and independent advice on all aspects of resource efficiency and key environmental issues.