These days, as all good retailers know, engaging with the local community has never been so important. It’s what can truly set you apart from the major multiples, winning you valuable local support and sales. However, at The James Graven Group we believe that it’s about so much more than simply providing prizes for the community raffle. For us community engagement has to be sustainable, benefitting the wider community and not just us.

As such we provide coaching, mentoring and general support for many local organisations, and this, we are told, is what they really value.

When given the right support and encouragement, we have learned that store staff can also make a key difference to how the store is viewed and used by the local community.

All of our store charity collections, for example, are chosen by them, and indeed any staff who are involved with local organisations are fully supported and encouraged. In fact we allow additional annual leave for those staff volunteering on a regular basis within the community, whether as a brownie leader, football coach, school governor or parish councillor.

It takes time, but attending a range of community meetings, including town forums or neighbourhood panels, is also key to driving awareness of your brand amongst the community and its people. But again your staff can be of great help here.

By engaging and enthusing the staff about community involvement as a company you can be represented on lots of fronts.

Just recently we assisted with the establishment of a traders association. Working with other traders has been fascinating and I do also recommend this as it enables you to explore group buying and negotiate discounts on a range of services. The traders are all very different in terms of offer and development – but all contribute with enthusiasm which is great to see.