Speaking at the Association of Convenience Stores' annual summit, Sir Digby said local shops were "the glue of the community - without them a lot of good stuff which defines Britishness would be under threat". Social inclusion and wealth creation go together, he added. "Without you in our communities, there will not be much left."
Convenience stores' ability to add value to their service would enable them to compete with larger outlets, he said, and those who were able to identify their niche in the market would "beat Tesco every week".
He told delegates; "Get out there and show your community what you can offer - engage, be open, help to create wealth locally. You must be prepared for change, and always be on the front foot. Do, don't be done to."
Many attempts to innovate will fail, he said, but stores which are prepared to be brave and keep trying will prosper. "You will make yourselves indispensable," he concluded.
More than 300 delegates attended Summit 07, which also featured presentations from Nigel Mills of the Mills Group, FWD chairman Francis Ball and Spar md Jerry Marwood.