I promised a couple of retailers that I would test the theory of whether going on strike will engender sympathy from shoppers for the ‘plight’ of the independent. I put the word in inverted commas because I know a fair few retailers who enjoy being their own boss and being the boss of others, meeting and greeting shedloads of people every day and relieving all of them of some of their money. However, I must also acknowledge that others, often through the sheer bad luck of having to trade in the shadow of a superstore or even its little clone, are suffering the consequences.

The retailers who rang thought I should write in support of Seamus Lehal, the Bedford retailer who is hoping to get retailers to go on a one hour’s strike via an action group he is promoting. We all know that there is indeed strength in numbers but will a mass walkout get the sympathy vote? And how hard will it be to organise anything but on a local level?

When the London Underground inconveniences me, I get annoyed. When shoppers get inconvenienced, they go somewhere else. When Convenience Store was launched 21 years ago this month, we all thought long and hard about that title. Rude jokes aside, it was decided by Them Upstairs that we should aim at the professional end of the independent market, featuring the new crop of London lovelies like the Lalani group, the natty new international chains such as 7-Eleven, our smart homegrown symbol groups and the top-end indies, which were all taking the supermarkets as their benchmark.

Supplier stories frequently carried the advice that out-of-stocks of the brand leader/the price fighter would also carry the risk of a potential shopper going elsewhere. Ditto if you didn’t have the right mix of distress/impulse lines. What happens when the customer really needs some paracetomol or has the munchies and you’re not there? Will they think, hmm, I really do take my local store for granted. Perhaps I shouldn’t?

I’m sorry to say that I think they will think, hmm, how inconvenient. Ah well, perhaps I can get it cheaper somewhere else.

But Kishan Patel for one, who trades in Barnet in North London, thinks a strike would work. “People have more goodwill now,” he says, “and they are more aware of the power of the supermarkets. They know that they go to a supermarket to spend a fiver and end up spending 50 quid.”

Amen to that. But has anybody got any ideas for a more positive way of reminding people that you are always there for them? You could, for example, put a few February cuttings from the nationals up on your bulletin board if you have one. The news pages of this issue will also be carrying stories about the All Party Small Shops Group’s report, which fears for the future of the independent now that the supers are also running c-store chains.

You might also prompt customers to visit the Tescopoly Alliance website and send their response to www.tescopoly.org/. The site proclaims “Tescopoly (Every little hurts). This is not Tesco… so go and get your groceries somewhere else. Support local business.” Anyone can join this campaign against the unfettered growth of the supermarkets – with a simple click they can lobby both the government and Tesco.

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