Name droppers - don't you hate them? I know for a fact that David Beckham does.

Just this once I'm prepared to forgive Giles Brandreth, guest speaker at last month's Convenience Retail Awards, who stood before the cream of the small stores' crop and casually let slip the biggest name of all. He told us he'd just spent the afternoon with the Queen, and that Her Majesty had a message to pass on to us all.

At an event that was all about recognition - for the often-overlooked retailers who understand their customers needs, who know the value of good service, and who strive to be a force for good in their community - the assembled award winners received the ultimate nod of approval.

Brandreth said that during a brief audience with Her Majesty, he had mentioned that he would be spending the evening with the convenience store industry. And her message, which he passed on to rapturous applause, was: "Please tell them that they are the lifeblood of community."

It's good to know, at 5am when you're marking up papers, or at 8pm when you're sitting in on Parish Council meetings, that your efforts are appreciated at the very highest level. And it's equally pleasing to hear that the nation's independent stores have a sympathetic supporter in the Head of State.

Brandreth also reported Prince Philip's reaction. Always quick with a quip, the Prince said: "Convenience retailers? Are they the ones who sell toilets?"

No? Me neither. Perhaps you had to be there.

Headlines that harm

I can't remember the last time a shoplifting story made the front page of the tabloids - as any retailer knows, it's generally perceived as a victimless crime, and one hardly worth reporting, let alone prosecuting.

That view's not going to change after millions of people read that Sue Terry, mother of England football captain John, escaped with an official caution after wheeling a trolley loaded with £800-worth of goods out of her local supermarket.

Whatever the facts of this case - and Mrs Terry's acceptance of the caution is a legal acknowledgement of guilt - the unfortunate message is that for a first offence, even of this magnitude, shoplifters will get away with a rap on the knuckles.

Between them, the police and the newspapers have just made your lives a little bit harder.