The original David Sands store, which included a grocery business, was founded in the early 1800s and it has been in the family ever since.

This gives the current MD - and fourth generation in the family to run the chain - crucial leverage when playing up the chain's local roots and publicising its feats in the local press.

Store openings and other developments such as its occasional, free Big Breakfasts in primary schools in the area are routinely featured in the Perthshire Advertiser, Central Fife Times, Scottish Grocer and Scottish Farmer, says Sands.

And if the chain wins the Robert Wiseman Dairies neighbourhood shop of the year award for its Kircaldy outlet at St Andrews on 6 December, you can bet the accolade will get a mention right across its customer heartland in Kinross-shire and Perthshire.

Many of the stores are located in towns with strong regional ties . David's father Lindsay, the chairman, spends his days travelling around the stores, talking with staff and gathering information. David's sister Marjorie, also a director, is an area manager with 11 stores on her watch.

David Sands is adamant that family ownership is a strength.

"We are free to take the long-term view. We don't have to worry about quarterly earnings," he says. "And we can change direction very quickly. That's got to be an advantage."