With National Independents' Day, the centrepiece of the My Shop is Your Shop campaign, creating headlines this week, the campaign's organisers have released research that gives a unique insight into the motivations and attitudes of independent retailers in the UK.
The responses are based on about 700 replies from questionnaires carried inside Convenience Store and handed out at the Convenience Retailing Show in March, along with interviews in cash and carries and independent stores. Put together, the 1,100 responses comprise the biggest survey of its type ever carried out in the independent sector.
The survey demonstrates that most independent retailers are intertwined with their local communities in a way that the grocery multiples can never be. For example, 64% of respondents said that their motivation in running their store was from offering "a genuine service to the local community", while a similar number believed their local community would suffer if their store closed.
Retailers in the survey also highlighted the fact that their stores represented more than just places to buy goods. As many as 55% of respondents said that customers visit the store as much for local news and conversation as groceries, and the overwhelming majority of local retailers reported an example of helping out someone in distress in their area, particularly among the elderly. With this in mind, nearly two-thirds of retailers feared for the wellbeing of local communities if the multiples continued their expansion.
With the average independent clocking up more than 13 hours behind the counter each day and with 25% of retailers working 15- to 18-hour days, long hours were identified as a key concern by our sample, along with red tape and the marketing spend of the major multiples.
Alan Toft (pictured), chairman of the My Shop Is Your Shop campaign, said: "Our thanks go to the substantial number of Convenience Store readers who responded to the questionnaire.
"They have demonstrated their support for the campaign which is the only generic activity in existence that promotes to the consumer the positive value of the family business and sole trader to the local community.
"The research demonstrates the contribution brought by entrepreneurs who have long-term ambitions and who get on with it. They know their customers and their customers know them - it's the human involvement and relationships evolving from living in the same community that make the independent irreplaceable."


? 70% of independents said they offered a higher level of personal service than a large supermarket.
? 64% said their local community would suffer if their shop was not there and feared for the future of communities in general if large corporations continued to expand.
? 95% said their shops were important to the elderly - this rating was highest in Yorkshire, the West Country, the North West and London.
? 86% said they recognised at least half of their customers when they came into the shop. The average shopkeeper knows personally seven out of every 10 people who cross the threshold.
? 64% cited the multi-million pound marketing budgets used by the Big Four as a competitive concern.
? 62% said increasing red tape was a block to business progress.
? Most independents recall at least one occasion when they were able to help a customer who had some bad luck or a personal difficulty.
? Most independents work between 11 and 14 hours a day, and three-quarters between 15 and 18 hours. About 39 % said that the demand to work long hours was a concern.