One forum, chaired by Mike Igoe, brand development manager at the 105-store chain Jacksons, explored ways of marketing a small store and making the most efficient use of time and resources.
There was almost unanimous support for Jenny and John Mainwood, who own Sedlescombe Village Stores in East Sussex. They said delivering newspapers in rural areas was a waste of resources.
They told the forum that deliveries had cost them £400 a month in petrol, and £200 in wages to service 12 rounds. Yet, when they withdrew the service in December they retained 75% of sales. Michael Clarke, who owns Cottingham Post Office and Stores in Northamptonshire, gave up deliveries last summer and turnover was only slightly affected, he said. He has clawed back one hour a day which he spent collating the rounds.
Even Star News Shops md Paul Siviter agreed deliveries were a nuisance.
Igoe said Jacksons neither delivered papers, nor ran post offices. Clarke said that a post office was "a good footfall driver", but Igoe reminded him: "The best bits, like stamps, are being picked off."
Paul Siviter said combi-units, where post office facilities are offered at standard till points, don't work because staff do not have the expertise. On the plus side, the group agreed cashpoint machines were a big footfall driver.
But Igoe sounded a note of caution about internal machines, saying the £1-plus transaction fee put off some customers, and they also attracted ram raiders.
He recommended leafleting as a means of driving footfall. He said: "As we drop leaflets in Hull, we can see sales taking off on EPoS."
And on opening hours, Igoe said Jacksons' stores were quiet when Coronation Street was broadcast, except in commercial breaks, and trade returned to normal when the soap ended.
Smaller independents could be shutting too early, he said because similar lulls were masking demand later in the evening.
The forum agreed the CRS summit had helped them focus their ideas. And exhibition director Andrew Reed said: "Feedback from the sessions has been very positive. We'll be doing more next CRS in 2004."