Four leading manufacturers are helping small rural retailers to gain a more competitive edge. Cadbury Trebor Bassett, Mars, Nestlé and Imperial Tobacco have joined forces with the Rural Shops Alliance to launch one-day business development courses for rural shopkeepers. RSA manager Sean Carter said the courses, which are free, focus mainly on shop layout and merchandising, although design, category management and health and safety were included. "We will develop them as we understand more what individual retailers want, but helping rural retailers to sell more is a good start," he said. The courses have been jointly designed by the alliance and by suppliers whose trainers will make follow-up visits to participating retailers. "These strengthen links between shops and key suppliers," said Carter. The main training is undertaken through presentations and group discussion. Costs are being met by local government, Carter said. The first course was held in Surrey and now the Rural Shops Alliance intends to roll them out across England. {{PEOPLE MOVES }}