The rules of how to profit in the independent sector are currently being rewritten. Your crunched customers are writing them.

You can bin the Corner Shop Code of Practice, the fundamentals of which were laid down by John Irish when he invented the '8 'Til Late' principles for neighbourhood retailing in the 1980s. His one-size-fits-all was okay then, but this is now.

The conventional package served up by the wholesaler was once the total deal. It left little for the retailer to create himself. But the failure by the convenience lobby to persuade the Competition Commission of the need for fair trading terms for local shops has been a driver in making 'community' a wholesaler - and hence a retailer - priority.

Therefore the package of service, product and price obtained from wholesalers now needs the retailers' individual add-ons to maximise profitability. These are the benefits you bring to your business from your close links with your neighbourhood.

It has been proved that independents playing to their core local strengths will increase sales. One reason is that squeezed consumers see the sense of buying groceries 'just in time' for daily needs, thus avoiding the temptations of over-buying in the multiples. They are also saving petrol costs by walking to the shop.

This is a crunch benefit. Make the most of it; promote the walk and shop concept.

But can suppliers please help, too? Can those who are increasing rrps remember to maintain the retailer's margin instead of reducing it? Can brewers now appreciate that four- and six-packs are replacing larger packs? And can telesales teams desist from trying to land unsold and therefore short-dated parcels on local shops?

As someone said, we're all in this together.

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