War! What is it good for?

After the drama of a fortnight ago, I'm happy to publish the other side of the story about the ongoing spat between Costcutter and Nisa-Today's, its distribution partner but symbol group competitor.

Yes, Nisa still wants Costcutter's business but no, it doesn't depend on it and I'm happy to make both those points clear.

In fact, both Nisa-Today's and Costcutter have been growing nicely in recent years, not just quantitatively in terms of number of cases, but also qualitatively by adding useful services for retailers and enhancing the two symbol brands in the eyes of shoppers. This has been achieved despite a fundamental difference of opinion at the top. To Nisa's Neil Turton, Costcutter is a subsidiary of Bibby, a group that was a bidder first for a distribution contract and then for the entire company, so there's a clear conflict of interest. But for Colin Graves, Costcutter remains very much under the control of his board regardless of the Bibby group's wider plans, and he feels he is entitled to more respect as Nisa's biggest member than he is currently getting.

Business thrives on competition, and independent retailers need, and deserve, options. RedOrange moved from Nisa to Costcutter primarily because the deal was better. Nisa upped its rebate payout to members to encourage them to stay with the group rather than jump ship. So who are the winners here? Retailers are. Better deals all round. And if the hardest business decision you have to make this year is whether to join Costcutter or Nisa, I think that's a brilliant position to be in. As far as I can see, war is good for business.


Give yourself a prize

Talking of good for business, today sees the official launch of the Convenience Retail Awards, and I hope you'll consider entering.

I know it's not easy to find the time to enter an awards programme, particularly if you dont think you will win. But I have two answers to that. Firstly, statistically there is more chance of winning this year than ever before as we have introduced an entirely new category for stores under 1,500 sq ft specifically to reward retailers who do a great job in a limited space.

Secondly, and arguably more importantly, putting yourself forward for an award encourages you to take a step back from your store and honestly appraise its strengths and weaknesses, and gives your staff an extra target to focus on. And these can provide a real boost for your business regardless of whether you end up collecting the trophy at the end of it.