The acquisition of a second store has been in the pipeline for quite some time, but we finally took control of the new shop in Horsham a couple of weeks ago.

It’s only a few miles from our Londis Southwater store so people in the area know us and know what sort of store we like to operate, and the response has been positive.

The store has hardly been touched for 20 years so we spent the first two weeks cleaning, patching up the floor and filling shelves. Sales are up 15%, so it goes to show that just getting the fundamentals right are enough to give sales a boost.

We will refit in the next couple of months on a similar model to Southwater, and the first step is to decide which fascia to trade under. We are talking to Londis because there is an immediate synergy with sticking with the same group.

Whichever fascia you trade under, the benefits of being in a symbol group are immediate. It’s not just the systems and the fact that stock is delivered to the door - it’s the whole process of store development. Groups like Londis will help with store design and have all the contacts you need and it would be difficult to do all that on your own.

Another key benefit is the ongoing business support. We have great conversations with our area sales manager about pricing, ideas to enhance the store and so on. And putting a well-known fascia above the door gives you immediate credibility.

So I think that being part of a symbol group is definitely the way to go, but there can be tensions in the relationship, particularly over the cost of goods. Retailers need margins, but both parties need to make a profit and if retailers aren’t loyal, it will be costing the wholesaler money to deliver.

There is pressure on retailers to be compliant, but with such a diversity of operators one size doesn’t fit all, and what works in a neighbourhood store might not work in a forecourt. Ultimately, symbols need to give retailers the right tools to modify their offer locally.

That’s what we’re hoping to do in our Horsham store, and on that note it’s time to say goodbye. This is my last column for Convenience Store, but it has been a real pleasure to share my thoughts with the readers for the past year.