I have spent a few days away from my store in the past few weeks to attend the National Convenience Show (NCS), as well as taking a couple of days off with the family before the (hopefully!) busy summer season.
As hard as it is for us retailers to get time away from our stores, I always come back feeling refreshed after having done so. It allows me to take a step back and look at my store from a different angle.

I really enjoyed my days at the NCS and the associated ACS Summit, where I was able to catch up on new products and services as well as learn about recent industry developments. It also served as a great platform to meet other retailers as well as suppliers and manufacturers, and share problems and ideas.

This year, I came away with the overall impression that 2012 could present our industry with more challenges than ever, with issues such as the recent ‘pasty tax’ (a big issue in my part of the world as you can imagine), the relaxing of the Sunday trading laws over the Olympic period, the recent talk of licensing law changes and the possibility of plain packaging on cigarettes.

Despite this, I also came away with the feeling that 2012 will be the year of opportunity, with moves such as the recent Camelot rollout of additional terminals, the Jubilee, the Olympics and the tobacco display ban in larger stores.

One of the major things that I took from these discussions was that, more than ever, we must work together as an industry to voice our concerns and fight our corner.

Collectively, we can become a force to be reckoned with. Interestingly, I believe that the manufacturers have come to realise this, too. It seems to me that our opinions are being taken more seriously by the major manufacturers, many of whom had overlooked the independent channel.

I wonder if they have suddenly realised our market share is significant and that we do have a unique point of difference over our larger rivals? After all, we are far more likely to gain the support of the end consumer as we know our customers so well.