I recently returned from the National Convenience Show in Birmingham, from which I came away with a very positive outlook. The show felt a little smaller than previous years, but the companies and suppliers that were there felt very relevant, and the overall atmosphere was excellent.

At first I did feel a little overwhelmed by the number of electronic cigarette suppliers dishing out free samples at every turn. It feels like the energy shots invasion all over again.

It was also great to catch up with so many retailers that I hadn’t seen in a while and put the convenience sector to rights over coffee!

When talking about our sector there seems so much going on and it’s difficult to remember a time when so much change has happened in such a short space of time.

For me, it’s all about the two Cs: competition and consolidation. Back in my student days I wrote a dissertation on the future of the grocery sector, detailing the expected increases in competition and consolidation of the major supermarket brands, with the end result being too much grocery retail selling space in the market.

I also predicted that specialist food and convenience retailers would benefit on the back of this. It is this view that led me to establish my store around specialist local foods that really help to differentiate my store from the ‘sterile’ multiples.

Now we see Tesco writing down its land bank and cancelling some of its big store development projects, while at the same time entering the symbol franchising model in our sector, and buying coffee shops and restaurants.

It’s now our market that is witnessing an increase in competition as the multiples race to gain market share. Soon it will consolidate further, and who knows how that will manifest itself? All I know is that we all have competition with us, or coming soon (thank you, Sainsbury’s Local).

We all need to understand what makes us different and better in order to survive as the market matures.