Last week saw the end of the financial year, and it’s fair to say we were slightly anxious to see how we finished up, given that a new Aldi superstore opened on our doorstep in November.

We were relieved to find that we ended the year up 3% in sales. Certainly the past few months have been tough. It’s hard to take when you see your one-time regular customers coming in with a bag of Aldi shopping in each hand, and asking you for a scratchcard or a packet of cigarettes. Loyalty is a fickle thing, and while we have retained many fiercely loyal customers, just as many have followed the lure of the new kid on the block.

Our almost year-long preparation has been the saving of us. Without the changes we have made, and especially without our new Premier Deli concept, those figures would have told a different story. It is still a battle for every customer, but we have turned a corner and are starting to feel tentatively optimistic.

Without the support of our symbol group, Premier, I don’t think we could have done it. In these increasingly tough times, we need every ounce of help we can get. We don’t all have an Aldi as a near neighbour, but we are all facing spiralling costs and finding it harder to generate the increases in sales we need just to pay the bills.

Not since the crash has there been such uncertainty and so many big players going into liquidation, and it sometimes seems to me that those who talk of economic recovery are living in a different universe entirely.

So for us it’s cautious optimism and taking nothing for granted; it’s tough out there.