It's difficult to find anything helpful to say about the death of another retailer, but the brutal and shocking murder of Gurmail Singh in Huddersfield has to force changes in the way our industry is protected by the authorities.

A year after the slaying of Craig Hodson-Walker in his family-owned post office by an armed gang, this latest tragedy means five c-store owners or staff have been killed by criminals inside their stores since January 2009.

More needs to be done to prevent these outrages from happening again, but practical solutions are difficult to find. Police response to these incidents has been quick: arrests have been made in the Gurmail Singh case, and the three killers of Craig Hodson-Walker are already behind bars. Police generally do a great job when a case is given sufficient priority, but sadly it appears somebody has to lose their life before this point is reached.

What we need is a more consistent, better informed and better structured view of retail crime. At the moment there isn't a common definition of business crime for police forces across the UK, let alone one that takes into account the risks that independent retailers run and the potential for incidents to escalate. If you live above the shop, your store is your home and your stock is your money, and I know of many retailers who have challenged would-be robbers without thinking about the consequences. Retailers would be less inclined to fight back, and more inclined to report every incident, if they had confidence that police would prioritise the call.

Readers of this magazine know that convenience store retailing is rewarding, but it is also high-risk. Gurmail Singh's legacy should be that the authorities recognise this fact, too, and react accordingly.

A measure of progress

There is a glimmer of good news in the publication, at long last, of the guidelines for the tobacco display ban.

Only a glimmer mind you, as brief and narrow as the amount of stock that can be exposed, but at least retailers can now start to think about a workable solution. As the legal maximum exposure is 7,500sq cm about a quarter of a small gantry it isn't as bad as it could have been, and lobbying by ACS and the trade has paid off.

Cynics would argue and I include myself in this that the government had decided to implement a display ban long before the various debates had even taken place. But I also think it has been genuinely surprised at the strength of feeling on the subject from the retail trade.

The injustice of the ban and its costly implementation remain, but as an industry at least we can say that standing up for our interests is worth the effort.

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