Does Tesco have any friends any more?

Although the company is, on the whole, widely respected in the retail trade, it also has some very active opponents.

The retail giant has increasingly come under fire in recent weeks for its tactics intended to sway local planners and public opinion over new developments (see p8 for the most recent example). Some will say these have been going on unreported for a long time.

Planning remains a key battle front in the war between the mega retailers, but more often than not the main victims are small local stores caught in the crossfire.

Tesco successfully appealed against the Competition Commission's idea to make new developments pass a 'competition test'. At the same time, the government has been told by an influential group of MPs that its intention to replace the current 'need' test with a new 'impact' test is deeply flawed.

The prize in terms of market share for successfully manipulating the planning process in your favour is massive, which is why Tesco and other major retailers invest so much time, money and expertise into it.

Most small stores, campaign groups and local authorities end up fighting a losing battle when Tesco comes to town. Only the government has the strength to set a strong framework and come down hard.

So what we need is a government brave enough to say to the largest corporations that once they get to a certain size, they need to be able to justify how getting bigger will be in consumers' best interests, both locally and nationally. And if they can't prove it, then they can't build, leaving locally-based independents free to continue to serve their communities.

A cause worth celebrating

Helping to judge the Sales Assistant of the Year Awards is an annual treat for all of us involved.

Every successful store has at least one unsung hero, a member of staff whom the owner or manager really can't do without. And usually that person is the most shy and unassuming member of the team.

If you know someone like that, I urge you to consider putting them forward for the 2009 awards so that we can help give them at least some of the recognition they deserve. The closing date for entries is September 18, so you need to move fast.

Everything in c-store retailing, from manufacture through to wholesale, down to the ringing till of the local store, depends on the moment when the consumer opens his wallet. So let's celebrate those who really make that happen.