A long conversation with a couple of well-established and successful independent retailers from the Midlands alerted me to a scenario that I'm sure is common to many local stores.

With every minute of every day filled with the joys and challenges involved in the day-to-day running of the business, it's easy for thoughts about future strategy to slip to the wayside.

The couple I'm referring to were running a business which was strategy-less, and it was a casual remark by a sales representative, who commented on the confectionery display and its lack of certain must-stocks, which alerted them to the problem.

The couple realised they had only been skimming the trade press, not quite giving enough time to wholesaler advice, and had generally allowed the store to remain in a decent, but 10-year time warp.

All this was due to the everyday pressures of being a local community store, chatting to folk and doing what you do. Then came the sudden conversion to what every business, great and small, needs: strategy and future thinking.

So they decided to put an end to the habit of deal-junkie, price-dominated trips to various cash and carries and to sign up to one wholesaler and a symbol fascia. From that seed everything grew.

The result has been a happier marriage, more profit, a clean and bright store, trained staff, fulfilment all round and the satisfaction of getting a few strokes over the local competition of which there is the usual over-supply. Turnover is up substantially.

As we get into 2011 maybe it's time for retailers to take a day off, let the team get on with it, and perhaps during an away-day get their strategy down on paper. After all, if there's no plan you could end up with no business.

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