The Grocer Top 50’s leaders met in London for the first annual lunch in their honour

Britain’s biggest and best independent grocery chains gathered at the Dorchester Hotel in London this week for the first annual lunch to honour the retailers who appear on The Grocer Top 50 listing.

Published exclusively by The Grocer every February, the Top 50 is a ranking of the country’s biggest privately owned chains by turnover.

The magazine’s editor Julian Hunt told those gathered at the lunch: “The Grocer Top 50 celebrates the fact that there is still a vibrant independent retail sector in this country - despite the growth of the multiples. And it is a diverse sector too - with frozen food discounters, off-licence chains, CTN chains, supermarkets, organic food specialists and convenience store operators represented on our listing and here at the Dorchester.”

Guest speaker at the event was John Timpson, chairman of Timpsons, who chaired this year’s judging panel for The Grocer Gold Award for best independent retail chain.

Timpson explained how a commitment to outstanding customer service and genuinely empowered staff in branches were central to the success of his 800-strong chain of shoe repair and key cutting stores.

“Customer service is fundamental to any retail business. At Timpsons we don’t just want to offer a good service, we want to amaze our customers and our staff can do whatever they want if it pleases our customers,” he said.

Timpson also outlined how his business - which has been voted one of the best places to work in the country - practised ‘upside down management’. He said: “We trust our staff to give good service and we give everything in our power to allow them to do this.”

He said Timpsons’ success was due to the fact it delegated authority while keeping responsibility.

“We let the staff run the business - but it takes a special kind of person to make it work. We don’t recruit key cutters or shoe repairers; we recruit people with personality and teach them the skills they need.”