The credentials of Convenience Store's Shop Project are well established. Participating retailers receive invaluable help and advice from leading manufacturers, and store turnovers go up.

It really can be as simple as that. But, of course, a huge amount of research and trialling by the manufacturers, and a high level of enthusiasm and co-operation by the participating retailers is necessary to make each project a success.

The Shop Project team is again working with four independent retailers, each with their own challenges and opportunities in widely contrasting neighbourhoods. But all the retailers share a common desire to improve their businesses and are prepared to listen to new ideas.

Tony and Margaret Roderick have been running Jaycee Foodstore in the back streets of Bootle, Merseyside, for about 25 years and have seen many of their customers grow up through nursery, school and on to college and into adulthood. But they still don't pretend that they know everything there is to know about the world of retailing.

The area is densely populated and the store remains open until 10pm, with the Rodericks able to count on the support of long-serving, efficient staff.

Although David Rimmer is not far away geographically, the contrast in locations could not be greater. His Mace Bilsborrow Village Store 10 miles from Preston is next to a canal and opposite the parish church. It makes an ideal retirement destination for some and David was thinking the same at one time.

But with the help of family and plenty of part-time staff he still enjoys the everyday challenges of retailing and running a busy store, which incorporates a post office, on the main road from Preston to Garstang. There is a small boat in the garden, but David admits he has very little time to use it.

The biggest of the four test stores is Bradley Arcade Post Office on the outskirts of Banbury, Oxfordshire. At the heart of a vast, sprawling housing estate, it occupies 3,000sq ft and when Faqir Sharma bought the premises more than 20 years ago they consisted of four individual shops.

He is quick to admit that he has lost some focus during the past year because of other business interests, including an interior design company, so welcomed this "wake-up call" from manufacturers who could point out the missed opportunities.

Several family members, including his niece Sunny Sahota, who is the store manager, are involved in the business and Faqir says: "This project is perfect timing for us because we needed to refocus. Even after 22 years in the business I don't consider myself a grocery expert."

The final store involved in the Shop Project is Hillworth Stores in the Wiltshire town of Devizes. Maria Johnson, who was previously in the forecourt business as a BP shop manager, owns it with her partner Steve Nicholls and the long-serving manager is Heather Wardingham, who has worked for just two owners in 33 years.

Hillworth Stores is a small but busy neighbourhood shop where Maria and Heather know virtually all the customers and their needs. Maria was keen to receive advice on merchandising techniques and making best use of space.

You can follow the progress of each of the store makeovers in a special supplement to Convenience Store published in March next year, or view the video presentation at next year's Convenience Retailing Show, to be held at the NEC Birmingham, which runs from March 21-24.

ARLA FOODS

The total dairy category is worth more than £9bn (TNS Worldpanel November 1, 2009) and is a key category for convenience retailers. Arla's aim for the project was to demonstrate to independent retailers that profitable growth can be achieved through an optimal dairy range, making the category easier to shop through clear merchandising and improving availability of key lines.

BURTON'S FOODS

Biscuits are a key growth category, with shoppers always looking for affordable treats. Burton's Foods is delighted to participate once again in this project, with the aim of demonstrating how to raise biscuit sales by focusing on a few key principles: product range, and how biscuits are displayed and promoted.

We worked closely with the project stores to demonstrate the effect these principles can have.

COW & GATE

Cow & Gate aims to demonstrate that baby feeding, which is a double-digit growth category in the UK (AC Nielsen November 2009), has a strong potential in the convenience sector.

The principles applied in the two project stores were: give at least two or three shelves to baby feeding; stock all key milk brands as brand loyalty is high; and stock a key range of baby foods, especially jars.

HOVIS

Bakery is one of the three main reasons why shoppers visit a convenience store. The aim of the initiative was to ensure the project stores met the broad range of consumer needs and therefore maximise every bakery shopping mission.

Hovis products were introduced to some stores in this project in order to improve coverage of these needs and to see how the brand performed.

MARS CHOCOLATE

Confectionery is a key category and it is important for retailers to select the right range for their individual store and display it in a way that will improve cash flow and drive sales.

The main objective for Mars was to work with each retailer on a store by store basis and to identify the opportunities that would enable the retailer to improve confectionery sales across the entire category.

NESTLÉ CEREALS

The cereal category is worth £1.5bn annually and growing at 6% a year (IRI Topline November 7, 2009) so having the right offering can lead to increased profitability.

Nestlé Cereal Partners wants to educate retailers about their range to enable category growth, through stocking the top-selling cereals; delisting weaker-selling skus; and ensuring the fixture is merchandised in an easy-to-shop style.

NESTLÉ PURINA

In the convenience sector alone, pet food is worth more than £250m a year. Research has shown that 24% of shoppers will go elsewhere if they can't find their preferred pet food product, so the right range is essential.

Nestlé Purina Pet Care is committed to driving pet food in the c-store sector and wanted to show how correct ranging and merchandising can transform a store's pet food sales.

PREMIER FOODS

The ambient cake category is worth £180m in the impulse channel. Premier Foods brands - Mr Kipling, Cadbury Cakes and Lyons are worth a 27% share.

The key opportunity in impulse stores is to list a core range suitable for all main cake occasions, thereby encouraging shoppers to increase their cake repertoire. The Shop Project is the perfect opportunity to show how this can be achieved.

REPUBLIC TECHNOLOGIES

Lifestyle choices and the economic climate have seen the roll-your-own market grow significantly in recent times. Swan is a market leader No 1 in filters - and can help retailers make the most of this growing sector with its wide selection of papers, filters and smoking accessories. This project is a chance for Swan to demonstrate its commitment to convenience retailing.

WALKERS

Crisps, snacks and nuts remain critical to the impulse channel, showing strong growth even in a recession.

This project helps demonstrate the effectiveness of category management advice. The key principles are to give more space to fast-selling products; offer value through pricemarked packs, deals and linked purchases; and use pos material to drive sales.