I have long said that as retailers we should look to work together more often. Sharing best practice and exchanging contacts or networking can reap many rewards, and joining a symbol group does just that.

As a retailer trading under a symbol, it can feel as though you become part of a family. The support you receive and flow of up-to-the-minute information can be invaluable if, like me, you are continuously looking to streamline your business and give it the competitive edge.

Sure, joining a symbol group will require you to maintain a certain standard and follow the ethos of your symbol, but this has a major benefit: more money in your till!

Each and every retailer who trades under a symbol is representing the brand as a whole in the eyes of the customer. When they travel around the UK and see a store under the same symbol as their local, they will expect to receive the same sort of standards and service.

So, if you are not currently trading under a symbol, then perhaps now is the time to consider it once again. The groups are all hungry for your business, and have heaps of help and support (usually free) available for traders in this ongoing financial crisis.

Once you join, most groups hold regular regional meetings and many organise store visits. Again, all of this advice is free and is a great way to meet other retailers and share problems and solutions.

Other benefits include internet forums and merchandising advice, as well as a raft of preferential deals with suppliers that are exclusive to your symbol.

National promotions and, of course, local and national marketing and advertising - be it personalised leaflets or national press - often complete the package but, as with all things, it is what you do with it that counts.

But perhaps more valuable than any of this is your new ‘family’. As I am learning with Premier, by working together and networking we are building a stronger symbol with better stores and engaged retailers.