At this time of year I always find myself looking forward to the latest figures from IGD about the size and shape of the convenience store sector. It's one of those mini events like putting the clocks forward or cleaning out the barbecue - a sure sign that summer is on the way.
The climate has been good for convenience retailing as long as I can remember, but this year things are different and the black clouds of recession are overhead. Yet practically every conversation I've had recently with retailers and other people connected with the convenience trade has drawn the same conclusion - that the sector is still doing OK. And IGD agrees, with sales growth for the entire industry of more than 6% reported this week.
Of course, price inflation is a big factor behind this big number, and real growth is harder to come by, but there still isn't a better branch of retail to be in than convenience food and drink.
I don't think anyone is expecting a bumper year this year - the job market is shrinking, the house price bubble has burst and consumers are just too nervous to continue spending like there's no tomorrow. But retailers and wholesalers are working hard to offer shoppers value for money and the latest figures demonstrate that convenience retailing is not just a sector for the boom times - it's just as relevant to consumers in the bust. And that continues to make it attractive for committed community retailers, wholesalers and suppliers to carry on investing.
Have you cancelled?
Now is the time to call time on your energy contract.
Many of you will have already done so this year, but I'm willing to wager that most of you haven't. It would be nice to assume that all of our suppliers will send us a clearly worded letter of advice well in advance of every contract's termination, and a step-by-step guide as to what to do next. But, unfortunately, your average utility company is not like that.
Finding a new energy supplier, or getting a better rate from your existing one, means spending more time (and energy) shopping around, but the power companies make their money from those who aren't motivated to make the effort.
So if you haven't done so already, we urge you to start the process today.