As I write this last comment piece of the year for C-Store there is still snow on the ground, and any year that has been topped and tailed by heavy snowfall, as this one has, could be counted as a good one for local shops.

Friendly neighbourhoods

As I write this last comment piece of the year for C-Store there is still snow on the ground, and any year that has been topped and tailed by heavy snowfall, as this one has, could be counted as a good one for local shops.

The year hasn't been without its challenges, of course. Consumer confidence and disposable income are low, meaning shoppers have been reluctant to spend as before. And the supermarket multiples have continued to open new stores relentlessly. Both of these facts have driven down margins, and made growth harder to come by for the independent. But on the whole I believe the industry has weathered the storm well.

Standards in the independent sector have never been higher. Symbol groups have continually refined and improved their offer, retailers have continued to invest, and a new wave of energetic young entrepreneurs have seen the potential of the local c-store sector and got busy.

And, above all, this has been the year of community. Independent retailers across the country have grasped the value of being at the heart of their community, and shoppers have responded positively.

And here's where we came in. Heavy snowfall brings people together, and neighbours who barely speak to each other in mild weather will gladly help out with shopping or digging cars out of the slush. It's a rediscovery of community spirit, and local stores are at the centre of this. Long may it continue. So here's to an even merrier Christmas than usual, and an even happier new year.

In the balance

There's no sign of a definitive last word on tobacco displays from the government, but I take this as being a classic case of no news is good news.

The coalition has now had several opportunities the recent Health White Paper being the latest to either confirm or reject the display ban, but still we wait.

The hesitation implies that there has been a significant internal debate about the wisdom of going ahead with the display ban passed by the previous parliament. Since then, everyone in the trade retailers, wholesalers, trade associations and ourselves have been united in trying to convince the government that a ban on tobacco displays would be an expensive mistake.

We don't know when the government will announce its decision on tobacco it might be next week, or it might be next year but until the final position is known I would urge you to continue to press your MP to support you on this. A year ago it seemed as if the display ban was set in stone; now it is far from certain. And it is only pressure from the retail trade that has changed the flow of government thinking. Keep up the good work.