“Seriously though, is all this another nail in the coffin for the independent retailer?”

The above comment appeared in a recent edition of C-Store and had me thinking. Not just because we hear the phrase so often that it has begun to lose impact, but also because I’m a former funeral director and can assure you few nails are actually used. (Screws are better for holding the lids down – in case you were wondering).

The life of a convenience retailer is never an easy one, there’s always projects here and there that require your attention and staffing and supplier issues etc. Today my milk delivery was short and as I stood in the middle of the road frantically waving like some sort of possessed lunatic in force seven winds, I began to consider just how amusing it must have been for the local folk looking out of their windows to see this heavily overweight blob with a delivery note in one hand, an order form in the other, flapping up and down as if trying to direct the milk float like a jumbo jet towards the gate.

Sadly the milk man did not see me and the end result was a phone call to the dairy who contacted him on his mobile. “It was just a test,” he assured me when he returned. Testing shopkeepers is not a wise thing to do, after all we control the chocolate and crisp supplies! 

Given the recent events with cigarette companies refusing to assist with display units, Jac Roper’s advice on scammers having us by the ‘short and curlies’, the increase in business rates and other such delights, I’m surprised most of us aren’t just skipping the coffin and throwing ourselves into the nearest cremator!

Is it all doom and gloom? No, of course it isn’t. It’s always easy to see the negative but a lot more difficult to see the positive. My staff saw the positive recently as we held some wine tasting training. Two evenings of trying wines out and learning how to taste a wine in the way you see on television led to some people seeing multiple positives, as well as a marked increase in sales of OTC Painkillers the following mornings. 

I think the industry is a great place to work and interacting on Twitter and Facebook with other retailers is a great source of support, as well as idea sharing. As the darker nights have now begun up here in Shetland the light fades around 4pm and its dark by 5.30pm (which will get earlier and earlier throughout November and December) I can’t help but think about the many nights I spent in cold mortuaries with very few people to talk to, which is in contrast to now where visitors are frequent and a lot more animated (well, most of them), which is all the fun of retail.

Smiles go a long way in retail, especially in the darker winter nights, so all these nightmarish things we keep hearing about are not another nail in the coffin, they’re another reason to pour that extra glass of wine on a Friday night even though you have to be up by 6 the next morning! Customers love to see a smile, so if you’ve started considering the cremator option, try getting out of the office for half an hour and speaking with real people. Push your favourite product and see if the bottom line at the end of the day brings a smile rather than a desire to speed up the Inheritance Tax Bill for your family.