We’ve just come back from three days in Birmingham. We were at the Convenience Retailing/International Forecourt Trader show at the NEC. The show’s organisers, William Reed had invited us to run their Business Solutions area for the show’s visitors. The area was really brilliantly laid out, with great branding and plenty of space, and the William Reed staff were fantastic. It was all very smooth-running and professional.
Hearing from the experts
As well as writing and designing a special Business Solutions Guide for visitors to the show, Jane and I had work to do! On each of the three days of the show, it was my job to interview three expert retailers and magazine editors about various retail-related subjects, in front of a live audience of store owners. Jane ran daily working lunch sessions designed to inspire and inform business owners about various aspects of their marketing.
I have to confess, it wasn’t the easiest task we’ve ever undertaken. The retailers were quieter than we’d hoped and didn’t ask quite the numbers of questions we might have liked — but what came across to us most of all was just how hard it is for independent convenience store owners to exist in the world of the big five supermarket chains. None of the retailers moaned about it — they were simply exchanging stories and ideas. But as Jane and I listened it became more and more obvious how hard they have to work to be different; to delight their customers; to set themselves apart from such powerful competitors…
It’s tough being an independent retailer
One particularly lovely guy, who had come to the UK from India in the 1960s and opened his shop here not long after, had seen his business decimated in the past two years by the arrival of a Tesco Express, which had opened just along the road from his store. He had lost almost two thirds of his turnover and told me that he was thinking that he might as well just give up. He was getting on in years and had simply lost the will to fight.
My heart went out to him and I wondered (not for the first time) what we’re going to end up with in this country when all that is left is supermarket after supermarket, deciding what we should all eat and how much we should pay.
A thought-provoking three days.