In Britain the weather is always a major topic of conversation, and so true to form the recent bursts of heavy snowfall have been a real talking point in the trade.

Extreme weather is usually good news for local stores, as customers are forced to leave their cars behind and shop on foot. But it can also be bad news for distributors who struggle to get their delivery lorries down the same snowbound roads.

So the challenge for independents is to make sure they get hold of the stock somehow, and this is where an independent, locally based business should always win.

If the delivery lorry fails to make it to a superstore, the staff will generally say sorry, we've run out. But the best independent retailers are usually flexible enough to find a solution to make sure that the essentials are in stock and available to customers, both regulars and the desperate new faces who've already tried and failed to buy bread or carrots at the usual supermarket. As one independent said to me recently: "If it's your own business, you just care more." So let us hope that this care and attention has struck a chord with a new generation of customers who until a couple of weeks ago had never dreamed of using their local independent.

As I write this, the sun's come out and you wouldn't know that it had ever snowed at all. But the good news is that out there in weather-obsessed Britain there are probably tens, hundreds, even thousands of happy, satisfied customers who can still follow their footprints back to the local store which could help them out when they needed it.

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