There are plenty of reasons to be a community player

Building a strong bond with the local community is becoming equally as important as having the right products on the shelf. And with competition in the convenience sector intensifying, having a community retailing ethos is one area where independent stores can compete and excel over the major multiples.
Whether it be getting involved in fundraising for local charities, donating prizes for community events, or just being the friendly face behind the counter for an elderly person's daily trip to the shops, being there for your customers will reap dividends in both goodwill and shopper loyalty.
The many retailers who took part in the first National Independent's Week last June saw at first hand how the public is starting to grasp the value of local shops and their role in the community. While they won't abandon supermarket shopping anytime soon, consumers are increasingly appreciative of the personal service and individual offer that smaller shops provide.
Take the example of Southern Co-operative, which says its roots remain firmly grounded in local communities - its members, staff and customers all come from the area.
David Miles, general manager of corporate affairs at Southern
Co-operative, says: "Our relationships with our communities impacts in terms of both customer and staff loyalty.
"We believe that as a community business our loyalty will be returned by local people who are happy to welcome us into their communities.
"Our community activity and our role as a community retailer is not something we can afford to mess about with."
Responsible retailing also plays a big part in a store's role as a community retailer. Helping the neighbourhood keep anti-social behaviour or crime to a minimum by adopting strict No ID No Sale policies for age-related lines, and forming links with local authorities and police, make retailers a trusted business in the community.

David Miles, general manager of corporate affairs, Southern Co-operative



"We have always taken our responsibility to the local community seriously. Concern for community is one of our values and principles and is therefore not something that we can do one year, but not the next. Although we work hard on supporting communities, we will be devoting more time and resources to it in 2008.
"Some of our highlights in 2007 have been winning the Community Retailer of the Year 2007 award; getting an Arts and Business Award for a partnership project with Hampshire Museums Trust; and being runner-up in the Herman Goldstein Award. More than 1,000 community groups have benefited from our popular small change donation scheme; we've made £21,000 in community support card donations; we've donated high-visibility jackets to all primary schools in Portsmouth, Gosport and Fareham; and made an international donation of £2,650 to a small co-operative in Lesotho.
"As more people see their local shop as a community focal point, our involvement will grow - it is, after all, what our customers and members want."

Alec Gardner, east bergholt village store & post office, suffolk



"We love being a community retailer and love being in the centre of the village. Our focus has been to make the shop the centre of the village.
"We're part of Heart Watch, so if there's a 999 call we go running out with the defibrillator. We sponsor an awful lot of local clubs; we're part of the school governors committee; and we clean the centre of the village and cut and feed the grass. It's all about creating a pleasant environment and setting our shop above others.
"It's very important for retailers to be part of the community, and responsible retailing is important, too. You've got to show that and emphasise it to parents, the children themselves, and your staff."

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