Stand up and be counted

The Association of Convenience Stores needs your help, director of public affairs Shane Brennan told retailers. Simply by taking part in four letter writing campaigns a year, independent store owners could contribute to "a groundswell of opinion which could make all the difference," Brennan said.

"We're also looking for local shop campaigners who will go further and challenge their local MP to discuss the issues of the day," he added.

ACS asked visitors to CRS to choose the single most important thing the government could do to help c-stores. It suggested five: reduce business rates; freeze minimum wage rises; tougher action against shop thieves; abandon the tobacco display ban; and introduce a supermarket regulator. A business rate cut was seen as the most important.

Café culture

Convenience store owners need to learn to think like restaurateurs: this was the key message to retailers attending this year's Ideas To Take Away seminar, which explored

the current hot topic of food to go and the opportunity it presents to small stores.

Retailers who invested in a hot food offer could expect margins of up to 80%, visitors were told.

Representatives from Cadburys and Argus Media explained that a good food service offer would increase traffic through stores and build repeat business as well as driving spend on other items.

Elsewhere at CRS, a series of seminars at Cafe + Live demonstrated to visitors the fantastic opportunities offered by the sandwich, fast food and take away market, which was worth £9.3bn in 2007 and is expected to hit £11bn by 2012.

Tobacco change

JTI (Gallaher) introduced CRS visitors to a new website which offers advice and support to retailers concerned about tobacco legislation.

The site,, advises on the new negative licensing scheme for tobacco retailers.

The scheme, which uses a 'three strikes and you're out' policy to penalise retailers who fail three test purchasing stings over a two-year period, comes into force on April 1. Retailers who fall foul of the new legislation face hefty fines and a year's ban on selling tobacco products.

JTI head of communications Jeremy Blackburn advised retailers to ensure that staff were up to date with their underage sales training. "You should also keep an accurate refusals incidents log to show due diligence," he added.