One thing that makes convenience retailing unique is the difference between true independents, symbol groups and multiple convenience retailers. How they all pitch their offer and perceive how they are meeting the needs of the consumer is fascinating.

With all these variations, plus changes from suppliers and manufacturers, the convenience sector can at times feel like a confusing place. Which trends are relevant? What are the propositions from different symbol groups? Which products do your customers need? What inspiration should you offer them?
While your own experience as a retailer counts for a lot, no one person can know it all. That’s why magazines such as Convenience Store play such a vital role in communicating the latest news, trends and product insights from our sector. It’s always good to see top suppliers and manufacturers providing information on up-coming product launches backed by facts and data as to why we should stock them. Similarly, news from the Association of Convenience Stores and organisations such as HIM also inform retailers on key issues and important topics facing us all.

However, attending a trade show or exhibition can be one of the biggest helps, and if I get the time before the new Inkberrow store opens I hope to be able to visit this year’s National Convenience Show later this month.

The chance to meet suppliers and manufacturers face to face and see their products up close is a great way to build a rapport and understand what is relevant to your store. In recent years, there has been an increase in small deli areas within exhibitions where local producers and suppliers can showcase their wares. These areas are great for finding niche products – another perk is to try a sample or two, or three!

Attending shows and reading Convenience Store – the retailer profiles in particular – has given me many ideas on how to ensure my business remains relevant. Taking the time from your business to meet other retailers and suppliers alike is a great way to keep moving forwards and learn a thing or two about what is happening outside the four walls of our own stores.