Independent store owner Rav Garcha is touring the country looking for the best in retail

For the next leg of my road trip I’ve been looking at the issue of sustainability. It’s a fascinating subject because it goes beyond business; it’s a bigger picture that we are looking at here.

As Andrew Thornton, who runs a Budgens store in London, said to me: “If you have kids then you want them to have a better quality of life than you.” So it’s all about building a better future.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a business benefit to taking a sustainable approach. Andrew has a roof garden where he grows produce for sale in the store, and harvests it every Friday. It’s amazing how he can think not in terms of food miles, but food metres, and customers come from miles around to shop on harvest day.

Another real highlight on my travels was a trip to Unicorn Grocery in Manchester, a co-operative that owns farming land as well as being a retail business, and which reinvests profits into buying more land so it can grow even more local food.

It’s a great example of how shoppers can really buy into what the business is about, and I interviewed an amazing customer who says that she chooses to shop at Unicorn because it cares: cares about customers and about farmers. It’s exactly what retailers want to hear.

I also went to see Dee Sedani in Derbyshire, who has a very business-like view of sustainability which is why he’s invested in the very latest technology to optimise efficiency and, like Andrew, has put doors on chillers to save energy.

But what is interesting is that these retailers have communicated their actions with signs about how much energy is being saved, and customers really understand it. As retailers we are always looking to change things, but what we really want is for shoppers to get it. That’s the thing that makes it worthwhile.

All three stores and businesses are very different, but what they have in common is that they are all trying to deliver a better service to the customer, and that is what will secure our businesses in the future.

The video of Rav’s Road Trip will be screened at the ACS Summit, part of the National Convenience Show, which is taking place at the NEC Birmingham on March 27. To find out more about the show or to book your seat at the screening, log on to