This issue of Convenience Store marks the launch of a new initiative to help local independent retailers make the most of their unique value to the communities they serve.

What we will do:
Provide you with a toolkit to fight planning applications for retail developments that will affect your business Establish the C-Store Standard benchmark levels of range, availability, cleanliness, customer service and community involvement, based on examples set by top c-store operators Bring you case studies of successful campaigns to engage the support of local residents and bring them back to their local store Fight for a fair deal for local stores and recognition of their value on a national level, by taking your stories to politicians, authorities and the public at large.
Whether the aim is to grow your business in a difficult economic climate, or defend it from the corporate juggernauts of the supermarkets, the neighbourhood store has some powerful weapons at its disposal its unrivalled ability to adapt to local needs, its knowledge of and respect for its customers, and the local links that extend beyond the shop floor.

But here's the thing we don't think you shout enough about these strengths. The aggressive expansion of the biggest grocery chains is fuelled by publicity and the message that bigger is somehow better. They spend a lot of money telling shoppers that they will save it.

Fortunately, you don't need to match their marketing budget to challenge this assumption. That's why we're calling our new initiative Fight Your Corner. It's time for local shops to stand up for themselves and take the battle to the big boys.

We want your customers to recognise the great service you provide for them, and understand how much worse off the community would be without you. Pummelled by supermarket advertising, they can easily be misled into believing that the multiples are significantly cheaper and that cheapness means value. If they are driving past your door for a top-up shop at an out-of-town retail park, burning fuel to get there and spending money outside the community, you're not doing your business justice.

So our plan is to give you the tools to get your voice heard. We'll bring together the best examples of progressive retailers who are working with their customers for the good of the neighbourhood, and flag up examples of successful marketing campaigns that have convinced shoppers to re-evaluate their local independent store.

We'll explain how trade associations, wholesalers, symbol groups and suppliers bring their skills to the fight.

At the same time we'll look at the many campaigns around the country to retain choice and diversity in retail by resisting the intrusion of national chains on communities who neither need nor want them. Campaigns such as the Norfolk town of Sheringham's 14-year battle to protect its personality from Tesco, and the resistance of the residents of Stokes Croft, Bristol, who mobilised in their hundreds to protest about the lack of public consultation over planning applications.

Market conditions are well set for a continuing boom in local shopping, but no one is just going to hand it to you. You're going to have to fight your corner, but we'll be there with you, giving you all the support we can.