Whatever their reason for being at the Convenience Retailing Show at the NEC last week, independent retailers from all over the UK took away suggestions for new items to stock and fresh ideas to tweak the performance of their store.
This year's show had something for everyone, with an adjoining area for forecourt operators, an aisle dedicated to the café and coffee opportunity, and a new Off Licence Show to help c-stores take advantage of the current shift away from specialist beers, wines and spirits outlets.
The Cafe+Live seminar programme provided tips for making the most of hot food sales, and the Take More Make More theatre brought visitors up to ate with the latest legislation, technological advances and category management updates.
The Convenience Store team spent the four days of the show meeting retailers and asking them what they took away from their day out. Here's what they told us, and a pick of some of our own favourites from the many products making their debut at CRS.
Diageo GB presented Smirnoff vodka and Cola in a pre-mix can, which launches this month. The latest addition to the company's range of spirit and mixer combinations, the 250ml can is 6.4% abv and aimed at the early evening 'transition' period where consumers either wind down after a day at work, or prepare for an evening out.
Entertainment Pod Ltd introduced an automated DVD, Blu-ray and games dispenser at no cost to the retailer. The company says that in return for 1m sq of floor space, it will install, stock and maintain the unit, with 10% of each rental going to the retailer. Movie rental drives footfall, it says, and tends to generate supplementary purchases of up to £4.50.
After liqueurs are made from Belgian Chocolate and coffee and have 40% fewer calories than cream liqueurs. New to the convenience sector, they offer an impulse or gifting opportunity and are very versatile they can be drunk warm, over ice, in cocktails or with cream, or even used in a dessert recipe.
Magic carbon BBQ briquettes were launched at the show. Described as environmentally, consumer and retailer friendly, they use 30% less carbon than charcoal and 60% less sulphur. Raw materials are from a sustainable source. Supplier Magic Products is introducing the briquettes to convenience and forecourt retailers ahead of the World Cup.
Irish food-to-go experts Martin Food Equipment showcased ice-cream, pizza, hot chicken, soup and coffee options for retailers looking to either branch into food to go or extend their current offering. The combination of tasty samples and comprehensive packages made this stand a busy one throughout the entire show.
Canadian energy drinks manufacturer DD Beverages unleashed Beaver Buzz onto the UK market at this year's show. Available in citrus and berry flavours, the brand hopes to provide a healthier energy alternative for consumers. As well as energy drinks, it also supplies functional sports drink GOOD4U and Natural Canadian Sodas.
Patak's was spicing up the exhibition hall with free samples of its brand new Bengal Pickle launched exclusively at the show. Billed as "adding bite to your sandwich," it went down a storm with passing retailers who loved its fruity taste with a kick of spice. The pickle comes in a squeezy bottle and will be available from mid-April.
There were two cool additions to Unilever's ice cream portfolio. Magnum Gold comprises golden dipped milk chocolate covering Madagascan vanilla ice cream with a swirl of caramel; while Cornetto Enigma is a vanilla ice cream with a chocolate and almond sauce centre.
Jeremy and Caireen Thorpe Fresh Harvests, Stourbridge, West Midlands:
"The show is the perfect opportunity to meet suppliers and find out about any innovations that we might be unaware of. We thought we would be able to get round in one day but we're now planning to stay overnight and come back tomorrow."
Josie Chamberlin Roberts and Sons, Hertfordshire:
"I want to launch a food-to-go offer so I'm here to find out how I should go about doing that and what kind of products I should stock. There's lots of food-to-go exhibitors here so I'm looking forward to it."
Carol and Richard Hughes Church Street Stores, Dolton, North Devon:
"We've travelled all the way from Devon to be here, but it's definitely been worth it. We are looking for ideas to boost turnover and one idea that we've come away with is installing a facility for hiring DVDs and games."
Ian and Elizabeth Stirling Stirlings, Prenton, Merseyside:
"We opened our first store three weeks ago so we're looking for loads of advice. We've already had some great ideas, including a very interesting talk with one company which could supply us with personalised chocolates; we love the sound of that!"
Fiona and Ian Clacherty Stonehouse bakery, Whitby, Yorkshire:
"We've run our family bakery for 17 years and now think it's time for some new ideas and a new direction. We're considering introducing a soft drinks offer and maybe some essential grocery items, so it's great to be able to meet all the suppliers under one roof and talk it through."
Naren and Banna Patel Stop and Shop, Egham, Surrey:
"We've owned our store for more than 30 years so it's always great to come to shows like this to pick up new ideas. We're having a great time talking to all the suppliers and tasting some of the new products. It's also nice to have a day out of the store!"
Visitors were invited to vote for their favourite new product making its debut at the show. Cash management specialists Loomis impressed the crowds with its range of new products designed to help retailers better protect their money, particularly the Safepoint i-deposit. Group marketing director Alex Pettefer (right) received the winner's certificate from C-Store's David Rees.