Last week we held ACS Summit 13 at the National Convenience Show - both events provide a great opportunity to meet with colleagues and friends and to reflect on the challenges and opportunities we face as a sector.

When speaking to the Summit I was able to provide my perspective on the regulatory challenges we face as an industry and how we tackle them.  Rising costs and new regulatory burdens are making doing business harder: last week heard the national minimum wage will increase 1.9% from 1 October, adding pressure to employment costs. The tobacco display ban and the spectre of generic tobacco packaging are further examples of the continuing national government preoccupation with imposing new regulation on retailers.

However I was also keen to stress that these challenges can be addressed. The key to this is effective engagement - on the one hand by ACS as an effective lobbying voice for the industry, but also by retailers engaging locally. I gave the example of the growing pressure on alcohol licences and a growing desire to prevent retailers from getting and keeping alcohol licences. This power that local authorities hold over your business cannot be ignored. The only way to ensure that they don’t use this power unfairly against you is to engage with them, show them how responsible you are trying to be, listen to their concerns and try to meet them. Once they know and understand you they will think differently about you and the burden you face will be lessened.

Summit was also inspiring in the way it set out the opportunity that there is for our sector, whether it was the great examples of innovative independent retailing showcased in Paul Cheema’s ‘road trip’, or the vision of industry leaders from the UK and across the world. Convenience retailing is in a period of opportunity, as well as challenge, and we are delighted that events like Summit/NCS are a chance to come together to share ideas and inspiration.