David Rees tackles the heated issue of energy supply.

There are a number of subjects that always get retailers fired up, such as red tape, profit margins and supermarket expansion. These have been constantly vying for number one spot for the past few years. But coming up on the rails, as it were, is a new threat. In the past year the team at C-Store has probably had more conversations with retailers, and heard more tails of woe, about energy suppliers than any other single issue.

For some time now, this magazine has agreed with industry experts that the way forward for local retailers is to offer a greater variety of chilled food and drink, backed up by a welcoming in-store environment using good lighting, efficient heating and air conditioning.

We make no apologies for this, and the widespread adoption of such enhancements is a big factor in the success currently being enjoyed by our industry. But all these features need energy to run, and tariffs are in many cases higher than retailers have planned for.

I can still remember the old electricity boards. Privatisation was supposed to introduce competition which in turn should keep the suppliers operating efficiently and prices under downward pressure. This hasn't happened. So, just when retailers are investing and enhancing their offer to customers, their efforts are being undermined by apparently arbitrary and occasionally underhand tariff increases.

Fortunately, some help is out there. There are a number of organisations who will look for the best deal on your behalf. ACS is in regular dialogue with the industry regulator and we've also asked Ofgem to make a greater commitment to support small businesses.

The convenience retail industry has secured a growing chunk of the grocery market by delivering what consumers want. We don't want to see this position ruined by greedy third parties looking to cash in.


There's no place like home

Summer holidays. We love them. I'm off for mine this week, and like many others I have opted for a 'staycation', which has happily coincided with the most promising summer weather-wise for several years.

I realise that I am indeed fortunate to be able to take a holiday at all, but for all the retailers toiling while their staff take a break this summer, the good news is that not only will more Brits be holidaying at home this year, the relative strength of the Euro to the pound means that we may get a big net influx of tourists from Europe. I've already witnessed this on regular trips to London recently, and with temperatures staying above average, that has got to add up to good news for the trade.